Two goals from Carli Lloyd were enough for the United States to hold off a fierce challenge from world champions Japan to claim their third-straight Olympic gold medal with a 2-1 victory at Wembley.
Lloyd added to her early header with a stunning second-half effort to give the U.S. a two-goal advantage. But Japan, who had been arguably the better team, gave themselves hope with a close-range finish from Yuki Ogimi. Despite their continued pressure, the U.S. held on for their fourth Olympic title and an element of redemption after their dramatic defeat to the same opponents in last year's World Cup final.
While the game lacked the extra time and penalties of that contest, it was an absorbing encounter witnessed by a new Olympic record crowd for women's soccer of more than 80,000 in London.
Japan, with many of its players in tears by the end, will have every reason to feel aggrieved at the result after hitting the woodwork twice and also having at least one clear-cut penalty appeal denied.
The game didn't start that way, though. Despite having battled for 120 minutes to overcome Canada just three days ago, the U.S. came out with all guns blazing as the team looked to unsettle Japan from the off.
And the tactic got just the reward coach Pia Sundhage would have hoped for.
Tobin Heath rampaged down the left before drilling the ball into Alex Morgan at the near post, who controlled it first time down the line and produced a perfect chipped cross for Lloyd to stoop and head home just ahead of the boot of Abby Wambach.
The U.S. was attacking with boundless energy supplied by the likes of Morgan, Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe that looked like it might overwhelm Japan in the early stages. Sundhage's selection of Shannon Boxx ahead of Lauren Cheney proved effective in giving Lloyd more license to advance from her central midfield role.
But Japan soon began to settle and implement their attractive short-passing game to full effect as it was the turn of the U.S. defense to hang on. Sawa, the embodiment of her side's philosophy, came close to getting Japan back on level terms. The diminutive No. 10 played a trademark through ball to find Nahomi Kawasumi who shot left-footed across the goal but was denied by a vital and brilliant block by Christie Rampone.
Just minutes later, it took an even better intervention to maintain the United States' slender lead. Yuki Ogimi stretched for a soaring header from eight yards out from Kawasumi's cross, but somehow Solo reacted to leap and turn the ball onto the cross bar with her fingertips.
The U.S. soon had another escape, this time with the referee coming to its aid. Captain Aya Miyama struck a free-kick that Tobin Heath clearly blocked with a hand outstretched from her body. German official Bibiana Steinhaus was surely one of the few in attendance who failed to see the offense.
While Japan was now firmly in the ascendancy, the U.S. almost extended its lead through an unlikely source. Lloyd provided a wicked cross, and, with Morgan waiting, Azusa Iwashimizu had no choice but to flash her head on the ball facing her own goal and could only watch in anguish as it beat her goalkeeper before striking the post and bouncing to safety.
The robustness of the woodwork continued to be well-tested at both ends. Ohno took her time with the ball in the area, dancing away from the goal and two U.S. defenders, before laying it square to Miyama whose side-footed effort rattled Solo's cross bar for the second time.
In an incredible opening period, Japan threatened once more as Ohno came close with a wonderful curling effort.
Japan might have had another call for a penalty straight after the break as Rachel Buehler had her arms wrapped around Iwashimizu in the area as the Japanese defender looked to get on the end of a free-kick.
All the impetus continued to come from Japan, with Miyama failing to hit the target with a half-volley in front of the goal.
But, with its back against the wall, the U.S. got a vital and spectacular second goal in the 54th minute. Lloyd picked up the ball just inside the opposition half and sauntered further forward, evading the listless challenge of Mizuho Sakaguchi, before unleashing a wondrous strike back across the goal and into the corner, leaving Fukumoto with no chance.
Surely stunned by the scoreline, Japan showed no signs of panic and its adherence to its passing game brought it back into the contest less than 10 minutes later. It may have been a scrappy finish from Ogimi on the line, but the build-up play was exquisite. Miyama fed Ohno showed excellent awareness to lay it back to Sawa to fire a shot that was blocked before eventually breaking to the goalscorer to prod home.
There was no letup in the action with the U.S. going close to adding a third as Rachel Buehler stretched to get on the end of a nod down from a free-kick, but Fukumoto did well to block with her legs from close range.
Miyama had caused problems with her quality set-piece deliveries throughout and did so again to bring Japan desperately close to an equalizer in the 74th minute. After Solo could only flap at the free-kick, Iwashimizu hooked a volley on target that Amy Le Peilbet somehow blocked with her midriff as she collapsed to the turf.
As the U.S. held on, Christy Rampone had U.S. hearts in mouth in the final 10 minutes as she conceded possession to substitute Mana Iwabuchi on the edge of her own box. Not for the first time, Solo came to the rescue, though, with a fine diving save from Iwabuchi's shot.
Japan continued to keep the result in doubt until the very last, but the United States defended admirably late on to continue its domination of the Olympics and, for many of the squad, erase the heartache of defeat on penalties 12 months ago.