Mo Farah had to battle to win back his European 10,000m title as his fellow Briton Andy Vernon snatched a fine silver.
Farah, ill or injured for much of the summer, came good in his second track race of the season to match his team-mate Jo Pavey's distance gold.
In a slow race a large lead group went through halfway in 14 minutes nine seconds, and with four laps to go seven athletes were in theoretical contention.
Farah went to the front with 600m to go and opened out as always at the bell, but only in the final 60m did he get rid of Turkey's Ali Kaya before Vernon's late surge.
The winning time of 28 minutes 8.12 seconds was less relevant than the salvaging of something from a crisis-ridden season.
Farah now has five European golds, one more than Colin Jackson and Steve Backley, and nine medals in major championships - a tally that out-strips Daley Thompson, Jonathan Edwards and Linford Christie.
The 31-year-old double world and Olympic champion will have the chance to win another gold in the 5,000m on Sunday.
|Mo Farah's major medals|
|2014: European Championships gold (10,000m)|
|2013: World Championships gold (10,000m & 5,000m)|
|2012: Olympic gold (10,000m & 5,000m), plus European gold (5,000m)|
|2011: World Championships gold (5,000m) and silver (10,000m) plus European Indoor gold (3,000m)|
|2010: European gold (10,000m & 5,000m)|
|2009: European Indoor gold (3,000m)|
|2006: European silver (5,000m)|
"I was really ill a few weeks ago but training has gone well," said Farah. "Winning the European Championships again really does mean a lot to me.
"I didn't want to let people down after missing the Commonwealth Games - it hasn't been easy.
"I won the 5,000m and 10,000m double in Barcelona in 2010 and I won one title in Helsinki two years ago. Now I'm excited for the 5,000m and I hope to run well again."
For the 28-year-old Vernon too this was rich reward for a season that began well before looking like it might be wrecked by injury.
His late dash for silver, overtaking Kaya on the line, brought back memories of Chris Thompson's own silver behind Farah in Barcelona four years ago.
Farah has endured his own troubled year, his first serious problems since his distance double at the Europeans of 2010 launched him into three seasons of world-beating brilliance.
In that time he has won two Olympic golds, three World titles and another European silver, but since his much anticipated marathon debut in London last April ended with a disappointing eighth place he has failed to make a single start-line.
Last month he was airlifted to hospital after collapsing on a training run, and he pulled out of the Commonwealths in Glasgow on the first morning of competition citing fitness concerns.
But the distance running standards at these Europeans are not as high, and with another three weeks of training at altitude in the Pyrenees in his legs Farah - with a personal best a full 45 seconds faster than anyone else in the field - was too good for his continental rivals.
Farah received a celebratory hug from Jamaican star Usain Bolt and did a lap of honour in the drizzle with team-mate Vernon.
"This medal, it is a lot of work, months and years," said Vernon. "You've got to get up on all those cold and rainy mornings for training. It takes a lot of motivation.
"When I woke up this morning I knew that I had a chance on medalling. In such a race everything has to be perfect in order to get a medal."