Robbie Grabarz won bronze in the London 2012 men's high jump final to help Great Britain overhaul the Olympic medal total set at Beijing 2008.
Grabarz, 24, cleared 2.29m to claim third place and Britain's 48th medal of the Games.
Britain have achieved their best medal haul in 104 years and matched the minimum target set by UK Sport.
Russia's two-time European indoor champion Ivan Ukhov won gold with a clearance of 2.38m.
Erik Kynard of the United States could not match Ukhov's jump and took silver with a successful attempt at 2.33m.
"It seems like fiction to me," said Grabarz. "It's incredible. I'm really proud.
"If someone had said I would get a bronze at London 2012 at any point of my life, I would have bitten their hand off.
"I had been wasting too much time and not applying myself. My coach sat me down last year and gave me a good telling off - to put it nicely.
"He told me to stop wasting his time and my time, go away and if I didn't want it then don't come back. I'm here and I've got a medal. I'm so happy."
Grabarz's feat is all the more remarkable as he was ranked outside the top 40 at the end of 2011 and, as a result, lost his lottery funding.
His coach says his charge can improve on his podium finish in the future.
"This is the first year that all our training has come to fruition," said Fayyad Ahmed. "This is the building block for the next four-year cycle leading to the Olympics."
Grabarz was bidding to win Britain's first Olympic high jump gold after becoming the nation's first European champion since 1950 earlier in the season.
He started the final in the Olympic Stadium with comfortable clearances over 2.25m and 2.29m in his first two jumps.
But he clipped the bar with his heels in each of three 2.33m attempts and had to be satisfied with bronze alongside Canada's Derek Drouin and Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim, who both also cleared 2.29m.
Grabarz added: "I was really enjoying the competition. I looked and thought 'I really want to be part of that, I've blown a chance to jump really high'. That's why I didn't smile for a bit but it's starting to hit me now. This smile is going to be on my face for a while yet."
Grabarz saw his medal hopes receive a significant boost in the third round when Russia's Andrey Silnov and the USA's Jesse Williams, two medal favourites, were eliminated.
Neither defending champion Silnov nor Williams, aiming to become the first reigning world champion to win the Olympic title, cleared 2.29m.