Brussels - US sprinter Justin Gatlin has rolled back the years to scorch to a season's fastest time of 9.77sec in winning the men's 100m at the final Diamond League meet of the season on Friday.
The 32-year-old American, the 2004 Olympic 100m gold medallist and double sprint world champion in 2005 before serving a 2006-10 doping ban, had set the fastest times of the year in both sprints -- 9.80 in the 100m and 19.68sec in the 200m.
And he went one better at the King Baudouin Stadium to maintain his unbeaten season record over the blue riband event, with Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt having already called it a day after his injury-plagued year.
Gatlin, in lane three of nine, blasted out of the blocks and held an almost immediate lead over a formidable field that included the second and fourth fastest men of all time in the respective shapes of American Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell.
With no big screen at the finishing line, athletes at the Brussels arena have no choice but to charge for the line rather than eyeing up rivals' positions and possibly easing up.
Dressed in figure-gripping red, white and blue sprint singlet, Gatlin did just that to edge out fellow-American Michael Rodgers (9.93), but fell just 0.01sec short of Bolt's stadium record set in 2011.
"All the Americans are running fast and I felt I was getting my groove back," said the 29-year-old Rodgers, a world indoor 60m silver medallist in 2010 and part of the world silver-winning US 4x100m relay team in Moscow last year.
"I am happy with 9.93, a season's best. But I had expected to be a little closer to Justin. As soon as I was behind him in the race, I knew it was over."
Amazingly, Gatlin's time matched his world record-equalling mark set in Qatar in 2006 - later rescinded because of his doping infraction. Only four men have run faster: Bolt, Gay, Yohan Blake and Powell.
Former world record holder Powell finished third in 9.95sec, one-hundredth of a second ahead of Commonwealth champion and fellow-Jamaican Kemar Bailey-Cole.
"I just started my season and this season was not easy for me," said Powell, who is making his return to action after successfully getting an 18-month doping ban cut to six months on appeal.
"I'm satisfied with this performance. I'm improving all the time and I hope to back at a higher level next year."
European champion James Dasaolu of England finished fifth in a season's best of 10.00sec, 0.01 in front of Gay, the former world champion who also only recently returned to action after a doping ban.
Gatlin, who was and remains the target of many critics who believe in lifetime bans for drug cheats, returns to the track later Friday to compete in the 200m in a rare double.