Dressed in the colours of the late Seve Ballesteros, Europe pulled off one of his trademark great escapes in what will go down as the "Miracle of Medinah".
What looked mission impossible when Europe trailed 10-4 at one point suddenly became possible after they dramatically won the first five singles games and then picked up further points from Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.
That put Jose Maria Olazabal's side, almost unbelievably, 13-12 up and as the holders they needed only a tie to retain the cup. Yet they ended up winning it 14 1/2-13 1/2.
Three games were still on the course. Peter Hanson lost the first of them on the final green, but Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari had it in their power to retain the famous gold trophy.
And Kaymer, left out all day on Saturday, was the one to deliver the point they required to match the biggest comeback in the event's history.
He was up against Steve Stricker. Level with two to go, the American bogeyed the short 17th after hitting his chip far too strongly.
Kaymer, bunkered off the final tee, found the green and had two putts for it once Stricker missed his long birdie attempt.
He gave himself and his team-mates palpitations when he sent his first one six feet past, but 21 years on from compatriot Bernhard Langer missing from the same distance to lose at Kiawah Island Kaymer made the one back and sparked jubilant scenes.
Moments before Molinari had fallen one down to Tiger Woods by bogeying the 17th himself, but suddenly it did not matter. The cup was going back across the Atlantic.
They played on, however, and when Woods bogeyed he conceded Molinari's par putt - a move that gave Europe their fifth win in the last six games. They won the 12 singles by a simply stunning 8 1/2-3 1/2 margin.