After a titanic tussle with home hope Cassandre Beaugrand on the streets of the French capital, Beth Potter made her move just before the blue carpet and sprinted clear for gold.
“I really enjoyed that battle with Cassandre," said Potter. "I couldn't go with her pace out of transition but I thought I'd work my way back to her. It was actually really fun!
"I was just slowly winding it up and kept telling myself, 'come on, you're from a track background, you've got this' and I was just trying to run fast at the end. I'm glad I had something left in the tank to be honest.
"I felt like if I got in front of her, I could put the pressure on. I was biding my time and I had in my head I was going to wait until the last moment.
"I enjoyed every moment of it. This was my main goal for the season and I ticked it off, so I'm super happy."
A complicated 1500m swim leg started in the shadow of Pont Alexandre III, the first picture-perfect moment of many on a stunning course that took in a host of Paris’ iconic landmarks.
Fierce currents in the River Seine served to split up the field with Italy’s Bianca Seregni and Summer Rappaport of the USA taking the early initiative.
It took the field 19 minutes to navigate the swim with Coldwell firmly in touch in eighth place as she climbed the 32 steps up to transition, a first for an Olympic course.
Potter came out 35 seconds back in 19th with some work to do, and Waugh just behind.
The bike leg, a quarter of which takes place on cobbled streets, split into three groups with British representation in each of them.
Coldwell was prominent in a lead group of eight with the top French and German hopes, opening up a 10-second advantage in the first couple of laps.
Potter was busy pushing a five-strong chasing pack alongside the likes of USA’s Katie Zaferes with Waugh taking her place in a slimline third group not far behind.
Midway through the bike leg, the three groups came together to form an amorphous pack of 24 athletes.
All eyes were on American Taylor Knibb as the leader of a potential breakaway but it never came as the mass group shook hands on a decisive 10km run to the finish.
The three Brits were all efficient through the second transition but keen to make a statement, Beaugrand streaked into the lead coming straight off the blue carpet.
The move was swiftly covered by Potter, Lombardi and Germany’s Laura Lindemann with Potter and Beaugrand slipping clear of that pair with about 5km to go.
Ten seconds ahead, the pair were side-by-side coming down the Champs-Elysees with a nine-second advantage but it wasn’t until the last corner that Potter struck for home.
When she did, it was devastating and Beaugrand had no answer with Potter clutching the tape six seconds ahead of her rival, completing the course in an overall time of 1 hour 51 minutes and 40 seconds.
Waugh had one of her career best finishes in seventh, 43 seconds back and holding off the likes of Lisa Tertsch, Taylor Spivey and Julie Derron in the process.
Coldwell, champion from World Triathlon Championship Series Yokohama crossed the line in 20th.
Alex Yee and Jonny Brownlee will look to follow in Potter’s footsteps as they race in the individual men’s race on Friday 18 August, before mixed relay triathlon takes to the streets of Paris on Sunday 20 August.