Ireland's long, long wait comes to an end - just
After 61 years of waiting, it came down to the last two seconds and the last two metres of the final match of the season.
Ireland's Grand Slam triumph in Cardiff was a story that will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it, a mesmerising saga with an extraordinary ending destined to be retold time and time and time again.
From the first kick the pace was unrelenting. To the end it was as compelling as anything any author has ever dared dream up.
Tension? At times it felt like you had an elephant sitting on your chest. Nail-biting? Most of us were down to the flesh of the fingers well before the end.
The plot swung this way, that way and then the other. At no stage did anyone watching have the faintest idea where it was going next. And in the final chapter, the final few pages - how many more twists can one tale have?
All great fables need great heroes, and this one was no different.
We might call ours the Three Apostrophes: O'Driscoll, O'Connell, O'Gara, a brave band of brothers each capable of deeds stirring in their own different ways.
O'Driscoll, reborn and revitalised this spring, led from the front, the middle and the back, relentless in defence, tireless in exhortation and unstoppable again from half a yard out.
Will he care that two of his Six Nations tries this year came from a combined distance of one metre? Not a bit of it. "This team's had good times and not so good times," he said afterwards, his faced still smeared with disbelief, "but this is a great time."
Saturday was the happiest evening of BOD's garlanded career. He has of course only ever been a single consonant away from God, but after this Grand Slam, many Irish may consider him to have moved even closer.
As all season, O'Connell was immense, a towering presence at set-piece and in the loose who rampaged through the Welsh line-out like a green-shirted gale.
Stephen Ferris calls him the team's go-to man; others in the side plain Psycho. In South Africa this summer they might well be calling him the Lions captain.
O'Gara - well, he was the hero with feet of clay, almost literally so in a first half when he missed one kickable penalty and hoofed from hand straight into touch with two regulation clearances. Targeted in defence by Wales's big runners, he appeared crushed by pressure as well as players, a once faultless fly-half turned fallible by the weight of occasion and expectation.
Decisively, however, he was a man transformed in the second period. The kicks through found space, the kicks out wide their men.
As his forwards burrowed forward at the death to work field position for what would be the winning drop-goal, he was alone in the pocket, adjusting his feet fractionally with every stunted drive, glancing up at the posts, calibrating and calculating, the loneliest man in the stadium.
When the kick sailed over, he was engulfed - by his team-mates, by the roars of the Irish fans leaping around behind the posts.
It wasn't the first time he'd broken Welsh hearts with that plot-line - back in 2003, another of his last-gasp drop-goals snatched that year's Six Nations match from the home side's grasp, again after Stephen Jones thought he had won it with one of his own - but this moment was of a magnitude all of its own.
Whatever else O'Gara does in his career, he'll be remembered most for that one single swing of the boot. Jonny can tell him all about it.
For Wales, it seems unfair that future readers will recall them mainly for their supporting role in this most engrossing of narratives.
For 80 minutes they matched their opponents run for run, drive for drive, producing over virtually the entire match the sort of dynamic, ferocious rugby they had produced only in patches against Scotland and England and rarely in Paris and Rome.
If the line-out was shaky, the collisions were colossal and the breakdown brutal.
They lost the game by tiny fractions. O'Driscoll was an inch over the try-line when he grounded the ball, Mark Jones an inch over the touch-line when he called the mark that, if given, would have prevented Ireland gaining the territory that led to their captain's key score.
A Gavin Henson kick-through bounced away from Shane Williams with the try-line begging. O'Gara's poke over sat up beautifully for the electric Tommy Bowe to hare away for Ireland's second try in three minutes.
Stephen Jones kicked out on the full after the ball was passed back inside the 22 to concede the field position that led to O'Gara's match-winning pot. Three minutes later his own match-stealer died in the cold Cardiff air, and the game was gone.
On such miniscule margins does history depend.
Should Henson have been given the chance instead of the no.10? While his long-distance reputation is better than Jones's, he'd already missed one from close to halfway. Jones had landed one from slightly further out.
"Steve wasn't having any problems, was he?" said Ryan Jones brusquely in the aftermath. "He said he fancied it."
Gatland, ironically, was the coach who gave half the Irish team their debuts, blooding everyone from O'Driscoll and O'Gara to John Hayes, Marcus Horan, David Wallace, Peter Stringer and Geordan Murphy in his time in charge of the national side.
Neither that nor Wales' final position in the Six Nations table - a lowly fourth - were giving him any pleasure as his old charges cavorted round the turf with trophies aloft and emerald fireworks exploding behind them.
The championship standings, however, are not an accurate reflection of his side's season. This was not the catastrophic post-championship collapse of 2006. As Ryan Jones said afterwards, with five minutes of the match to go they were second; as his coach added, "You saw the two best teams in the tournament today."
When asked if Ireland deserved their Slam, Gatland was his usual mix of logical and laconic. "They've won all their matches, haven't they?" he said, unblinking.
Whether it was a truly 'grand' slam is another debate, one that almost seemed churlish when the echoes from this epic win were still to fade away.
In the build-up to the final weekend, O'Driscoll described his side's performances as "both good and bad", and in Cardiff there was again evidence of both.
In the first half Ireland were lacking in both patience and phases, and in clocking up 15 penalties to their opponent's five they left themselves open to exploitation. Yet despite all that they still managed to beat the reigning Grand Slam champions on their own patch, against a team that featured 14 of the 15 Welshmen who starred against France in last season's decider.
In the past two months they won three times away from home, and came out on top in arguably the two best matches of the tournament, their first and last of the campaign.
Like all great teams they also found a way to win when winning seemed difficult - against England, when the wheels were in danger of coming off, and in Cardiff when they were staring down the barrel with just four minutes left on the stadium clock.
While their performances might not all have been inspiring, their achievements were. It was classic Declan Kidney - rock-solid in defence, a domination of the set-piece and control achieved via O'Gara's boot.
In any case, an Irish team that wins a Grand Slam is outstanding in the most literal sense of the word. Will anyone be carping back home about a lack of style? They're as likely to as Mary McAleese is to marry Martin Johnson.
Some questions went unanswered. We'll never know how Paddy Wallace would have felt had that eleventh-hour penalty he gave away been landed by Jones, and we'll never know if Henson would have cleared the bar if he'd been given the chance instead.
We do know what O'Driscoll was thinking, though, as the clock ran down and the crowd fell silent, because he let it slip afterwards: "I hope you don't have the distance."
His hopes came true, just as Ireland's Grand Slam dreams finally did. But oh, it was close.
As the old cliché goes, if a scriptwriter had come up with that ending - the last kick of the championship spiralling towards the posts to decide the Grand Slam, hanging for an age, slowing up, dropping short, triggering wild celebrations - no-one would have believed it.
Well, I saw it with my own eyes, and I can still barely believe it.