Rome: Usain Bolt shook off a nine-month lay-off to prove he was back as he beat rival Asafa Powell to win the 100m at the Golden Gala here on Thursday.
Bolt had to grit his teeth and drag back his Jamaican compatriot over the last 20m before winning in 9.91 seconds.
Powell recorded 9.93sec in second with Christophe Lemaitre of France third in 10sec flat.
"It was not perfect but I`m very happy. It could have been better, but I`m now looking forward to my second race (of the season)," said Bolt.
"The important thing was that I got the win. It`s good for confidence and the season."
It was far from a vintage performance from the new muscular Bolt, who clearly looked bigger and stronger than before his lay-off.
But after so long out he displayed admirable determination to chase down Powell and win when he looked set for defeat.
Bolt was slow out of the blocks and when Powell streaked clear in mid-race it looked all over.
But the 24-year-old stretched his giant legs and ate into Powell`s lead, pipping him to the line.
"The difference is that Usain ran his race and I also ran his race. I didn`t stay relaxed or focused," complained Powell.
The women`s double super-clash between world champions Sanya Richards (400m) and Allyson Felix (200m) turned out to be a bit of a damp squib.
Richards`s long lay-off -- she didn`t compete at all last year -- showed as she trailed in 5th in 50.98 in the one-lap event while Felix won by more than half a second in 49.81 from Botswana`s Amantle Montsho.
However, in the 200m both seemed to be suffering a bit from fatigue as they were put in the shade by their rivals.
American Bianca Knight won in 22.74sec from Olympic bronze medallist Kerron Stewart of Jamaica and Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie of the Bahamas in third.
Felix was fourth in 22.81 with Richards one place behind in 22.88.
Ethiopia`s Imane Merga cemented his status as favourite for the World Championships in Daegu as he won the 5,000m in 12:54.21, beating Kenya`s Isaiah Koech, who set a personal best, into second.
British world and European champion Phillips Idowu won the men`s triple jump with a leap of 17.59m, beating former world and Olympic champion Christian Olsson of Sweden into second.
Italian long-jumper Andrew Howe brought the house down and got the biggest cheer of the night, even more so than Bolt, by winning the 200m, his secondary event, in 20.31.
World champion Maryam Jamal, the former Ethiopian born Zenebech Tola but now running for Bahrain, took the women`s 1500m in 4:01.60 with Olympic champion Nancy Lagat a disappointing fifth.
In the women`s 100m hurdles Lolo Jones almost repeated her Olympic disaster as she hit a hurdle.
Leading in Beijing she hit the last hurdle and stumbled and fell over the finishing line, but out of the medals.
This time she managed to stay on her feet, although she didn`t finish, as Olympic champion Dawn Harper won in 12.70.
Brittney Reese edged out American team-mate Funmi Jimoh in the long-jump with a leap of 6.94m.
Canada`s Dylan Armstrong upset Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski of Poland in the shot-put with a throw of 21.60m.
In the men`s 400m hurdles Louis van Zyl left the field for dead with a 47.91 beating Britain`s David Greene into second with Olympic champion Angelo Taylor down in third.
Kenya`s Milcah Cheiywa took the women`s 3,000m steeple-chase in 9:12.89 with Ethiopia`s Sofia Assefa second and Tunisia`s Habiba Ghribi third in an African one-two-three.
And the popular Croatian world champion Blanka Vlasic easily won the women`s high jump, clearing 1.95m.