Usain Bolt considered it his worst race of the season, yet he still won the 100 metres at the Weltklasse Diamond League meeting in Zurich in 9.90 seconds.
The world and Olympic champion had the slowest reaction out of the starting blocks, and was led deep into the race by fellow Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade in Thursday night's race at Letzigrund stadium.
Bolt got down to work and muscled through the slight headwind to hit the front at the 85-metre mark. Ashmeade clocked 9.94 for second place, and Justin Gatlin of the United States was third in 9.96.
"That was the worst race of the season," said Bolt, who timed 9.95 when losing to Gatlin in Rome in June. "The longer the season goes, the worse my style gets. This race, it was really hard. I was a little sore. It's time to get home now."
Still, Bolt was the main attraction as usual and put on a typical pre-race act for the crowd, taking centre stage.
The sprinting superstar pressed his hands together in a prayer-like pose, head bowed before breaking into karate-style moves. He bowed again as the camera moved along the line.
On a cool evening, Bolt laboured at the start and a rare defeat seemed possible at halfway.
"The more I run, the worse my reaction time gets," Bolt acknowledged.
"My coach [Glen Mills] knows that when it comes to the end of the season, I am not the perfect athlete."
Yet Bolt allowed himself a smile on crossing the finish, looking across to Ashmeade two lanes on his left and world silver medalist Gatlin two to his right.
In a stirring women's 5,000 metres duel between Ethiopian greats, Meseret Defar surged past Tirunesh Dibaba in the final straight.
For once, distance runners took the spotlight with a rare Defar v Dibaba clash outside a major championship.
Dibaba, the world and Olympic champion at 10,000, forced a front-running pace at the bell, with world and Olympic 5,000 champion Defar poised on her shoulder entering the final straight.
Defar passed her rival with 70 metres to go and extended her lead all the way to the finish.