Luke Donald captured The European Tour's flagship event at Wentworth Club after a titanic final round battle with Lee Westwood at the BMW PGA Championship.
The World Number One and World Number Two traded blows all day, and Westwood's 68 drew him level with his compatriot after 72 holes.
But for the first time in his career it is now Donald atop the Official World Golf Ranking. After pitching his third to six feet at the first extra hole, he looked on as Westwood spun his into the water.
Westwood took a double bogey seven and Donald won the €750,000 first prize with a birdie four.
In regulation play Donald was left with a 30 footer for victory on the final hole after Westwood, playing in the group ahead, had missed from six, but his two-putt par meant they tied on the total of 278.
Westwood was two behind at the start of the day, but went one in front with a front nine 33 and was two clear when he birdied the 15th following a brilliant approach within three feet.
However, he then bogeyed the next and Donald hit his approach to a foot to draw level.
Simon Dyson signed for a closing 69 to finish four under and create the first all-English one-two-three in the event since 1974.
Marcus Fraser, Raphaël Jacquelin and Shane Lowry tied for fourth on two under, while a shot further back there was a first top-ten finish for Colin Montgomerie since the 2008 Alstom Open de France.
Record crowds of 93,404 enjoyed some spectacular action over the four days, nearly 5,000 more than attended in 2010.
Donald, who revealed his wife Diane is expecting their second child in November, said: “Looking back to the birth of my first child, Elle, my golf has only gone from strength-to-strength. It's been a real blessing to become a father, it's given me a lot more responsibility I think as a person. I've grown up - I've become a better person.
“My daughter is the best, she sleeps 12 hours every night. It's nice to come home even when you finish second or don't quite close out a tournament; when you've got her little face smiling back at me, you're able to forget things pretty quickly. She really is an inspiration to me.”
Westwood said: "It's amazing it went in the water, but it shouldn't have gone into a play-off.
"I had a good chance at 17 going in with a three iron (pushed right) and on the last I just misread it.
"The finish was a bit iffy I suppose, so that's the reason I finished second. Not because I lost the play-off - they are volatile - but because I didn't take my chances."
The high-class field included all four current Major Champions, seven of the game's top nine and all but the injured Padraig Harrington of the winning Ryder Cup Team last year.
Although Westwood was so close to achieving a third successive stroke play victory, nobody can say that his Celtic Manor Resort teammate does not deserve top spot.
This was Donald's ninth successive top-ten finish, a run that began with his victory at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play in Arizona in February.
The 33 year old also became the third successive English player to win after Paul Casey and Simon Khan, who Donald narrowly missed out to 12 months ago after taking seven at the 17th.
“They are gone,” he said, when asked if his win banished the memories of that day.
Donald then admitted that when the runner-up was called up at the prize giving he very nearly stepped forward instead of Westwood.
He was second at the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain last week and at the Heritage tournament after a play-off in South Carolina last month. On both occasions a win would have made him Number One.
“It feels great obviously,” he added. “I’ve been the runner-up a few times in my career, a few times this year, and to obviously come through in these circumstances in one of the biggest tournaments in the world, going head-to-head with Lee, is pretty special.
“It doesn't get much better. I'm not sure if there will ever be a case where Number One and Number Two in the world are playing off for the tournament, but also a chance for the Number One ranking in the world. A unique history I think has been made, and glad to be a part of it.”