Third time lucky for Guo Yan as the hard-hitting Chinese upset more heralded teammate and good friend Zhang Yining to win the women's table tennis World Cup in Urumqi, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Sunday.
World No. 3 outlasted world No. 1 in a seven-set thriller following two defeats to Zhang in the finals of the World Cup and world championships in 2005.
The match was played in front of a buoyant home crowd, who could relax knowing that the gold medal was guaranteed for China.
World No. 7 Li Jia Wei of Singapore stunned No. 4 Tie Yana from Hong Kong, China, in five sets (8-11, 14-12, 11-4, 11-4, 11-9), taking the third place and a check of 15,000 US dollars.
Guo walked away with 44,000 dollars with Zhang pocketing 22,000 dollars.
Zhang, winner in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005, had been in a class of her own until she met Guo on Sunday.
Guo came from 1-3 down to win 13-15, 12-10, 9-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-6 as stoned-faced Zhang made a series of errors in the deciding set.
The annual World Cup, which featured the world's top-ranked players and continental champions, is one of the most watched table tennis events in the world, rated third in importance, only after the Olympic tournament and the world championships.
Chinese women have never let go a single World Cup trophy since legendary Deng Yaping won the inaugural event in 1996. Wang Nan won in 1997, 1998, 2003 and Li Ju triumphed in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh in 2000, the only time the event was held outside of Chinese soil.
In the women's semifinals earlier, Zhang overcame an early setback to beat Li Jia Wei 4-2 (11 -9, 11-13, 8-11, 11-6,11-7, 11-5) while Guo Yan outlasted Tie Yana in six sets (11-9, 11-6, 11-8, 12-14, 8-11, 11-8).
Both born and trained in Beijing, Zhang and Li have been familiar with each other's game. As Zhang was slow to find her touch, the 25-year-old Li, known for a lightning forehand smash, took initiative in attacking and jumped to a 2-1 lead in sets.
Jolted out of lethargy, Zhang played a more aggressive game plus placement shots to snatch the lead and went on to take the sixth set 11-5 following an 8-0 run.
The Guo-Tie game was a clash of different handshake styles. Tie, as an all-around player, usually uses her superb defensive skills to outlast the rivals, while Guo plays a manly game and would take risks.
As Guo seemed to be cruising to a straight-set win, Tie came back strongly to close it 2-3 but failed to turn the tables.