SIR Chris Hoy produced an incredible Houdini act to clinch an unlikely gold on the final day of the World Track Cycling Championships in Melbourne yesterday.
By his own admission, the Scot had been off his best in Melbourne prior to the keirin but, even on an evening when Australian darling Anna Meares broke a world record, he was still the talk of the Hisense Arena.
Coming into the last bend of the final, he was in fourth and an 11th world title in what could be his last championships appeared well beyond his reach.
But as New Zealand's Simon van Velthooven pulled wide to fend off another British threat in the form of Jason Kenny, Hoy, who had ducked on to the inside line, squeezed his muscular frame through what seemed an impossible gap between the Kiwi and race leader Maximilian Levy for victory.
Hoy, who turned 35 on the flight over to Australia, admitted it was a move he had never tried before at a major championships and was in disbelief he had made it stuck.
"I've always put my foot down Forrest Gump style," he said of a manoeuvre which he described as his "get out of jail free card".
He admitted: "I'd given up on the home straight. I thought I'd messed it up. But I thought why not give it a go and the gap opened. You never say die and thankfully I didn't give up. It paid off. I couldn't believe it."
Hoy admitted his inspiration was a motto used by British Cycling performance director, Dave Brailsford - "the sign of a true champion is being able to bounce back from defeat" - after faltering in the sprint and team sprint events.
The timing of his gold could not have been better in what was his very last race before the Olympics and, after his Melbourne ride, he is now a guaranteed starter for Britain in the keirin.
After the win, he was greeted at the side of the track by his wife and his parents. With three laps left of the race, his mother Carol buried her head in her hands scarcely able to watch her son in action but afterwards celebrated by unfurling a banner with the words "Chris Hoy, the Real McCoy".
That sixth gold was not quite enough for Britain to top the medal table - Australia, with six golds but more silvers, took that accolade - but Britain tellingly boasted five golds to Australia's three in the 10 Olympic events.
The fact that Britain also won four other medals on the final night almost paled into insignificance, including Kenny's bronze in the same race, awarded after Van Velthooven was relegated.
There were silvers for Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift in the madison, and Wendy Houvenaghel, in the individual pursuit, while Jess Varnish broke her personal best for bronze in the 500m time trial.
But the night belonged to Hoy, who made it clear how he'd celebrate a fourth keirin world title in six years. "I'm going to have a holiday, gain a few pounds and have a few beers," he said.
The question, though, is whether he will ride two or three events in London. His keirin gold showed he has the stamina to do all three but even he accepted it might not be possible.
"The dream is still to win three gold medals," he said. "If I get two it's not the end of the world. I'm happy to abide by the decision of the selectors. I have faith and trust in them that they'll make the right decision whether that's in my favour or not."