Vincenzo Nibali held off a late charge to claim victory in the Milan-San Remo, where Mark Cavendish's torrid 2018 season continued with a spectacular crash.
Not since Filippo Pozzato in 2006 had an Italian won the first Monument of the season and Nibali was a popular champion on Saturday as he crossed the line arms aloft in familiar fashion after almost seven hours and 20 minutes of racing.
The Bahrain-Merida man finished ahead of Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ), while there were concerns for Cavendish's welfare after the Dimension Data rider suffered a heavy fall with around 10 kilometres of the 294km-route remaining.
Cavendish collided with a bollard in the centre of the road and was thrown over his handlebars before landing painfully on his back.
Shortly after the conclusion of the race, Dimension Data tweeted to say that Cavendish "is currently being assessed by a medical team. More information will be provided when available."
It was the third accident in as many outings for the Briton this year, after he was forced out of the Abu Dhabi Tour in February and then sustained a broken rib and facial injuries at the Tirreno-Adriatico this month.
Having begun the race amid a torrential downpour, the peloton enjoyed far milder conditions as they travelled further south and Nibali attacked going up the Poggio, the final climb of the route.
The pack began to cut his lead as the gradient eased on the descent, but the man known as the Shark of Messina gritted his teeth and held on to claim a hard-earned success.
Nibali said: "It was all day water, rain, rain, rain, my sensations were very good, but I was working with Sonny Colbrelli and in the last 15 kilometres I had really good sensations.
"On the Poggio I worked with Colbrelli, but in the last five kilometres I only followed the other rider. When my on my radio the director spoke with me and he said '20 seconds', I only thought 'full gas'. It's a fantastic day for me."
26. April 2018
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