It was the holy grail -- the gold medal that President Vladimir Putin and his fellow Russians had dreamed of.
It wasn't just about reasserting Russia's standing on the ice hockey stage, this was about pride, tradition and proving that the host nation's star players could deliver in front of the watching world.
But there was one small problem -- somebody forgot to tell Finland.
When Ilya Kovalchuk opened the scoring for Russia in the first period, it appeared that the host nation would be celebrating come the end of the contest.
But Finland had other ideas -- fighting its way to a historic 3-1 victory which broke Russian hearts.
"I cannot explain my feelings. Inside I am absolutely empty," Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk told reporters.
"The emotion we feel right now is disappointment, disappointment that we didn't live up to the hopes placed on us.
"There were great hopes placed on us and we didn't live up to them."
Finland, which finished third in Vancouver four years ago, equalized through Juhamatti Aaltonnen's effort before Teemu Selanne completed the comeback ahead of the first intermission.
Mikael Granlund added a third early in the second period to seal the win and silence a stunned crowd.
Finland will now face the highly-fancied Swedes in the semifinals after defeating Slovenia 5-0.
Carl Hagelin scored twice with Alexander Steen, Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson also on target.
Three-time defending champion Canada overcame a brave effort from Latvia with a 2-1 victory, and will now face the United States in a rematch of the 2010 final.
The Americans, who beat Russia earlier in the competition, eased into the semis with a 5-2 victory over the Czech Republic.
Biathlon star Ole Einar Bjoerndalen made history by winning a record 13th medal at the Winter Olympics as Norway claimed gold in the mixed relay.
The 40-year-old overtook fellow countryman and cross country ski star Bjoern Daehlie, who won 12 medals during his career.
Bjoerndalen, who has now won eight gold medals, teamed up with Emil Hegle Svendsen for the men's legs and Tora Berger and Tiril Eckhoff for the women's, as Norway cruised home.
The Czech Republic took silver with Italy in third.
Bjoerndalen, taking part in his sixth Games, won his first medal at Nagano in 1998. He has 19 world championship titles to his name and started his Sochi competition by winning the 10 km sprint.
Bjoerndalen came close to winning his 13th medal in the 20 km individual last week but had to settle for fourth place.
He also missed out on a medal in Tuesday's mass start where he made four errors in the final shooting -- mistakes not repeated on this occasion.
"My shooting was really good, I was more focused than yesterday but today it was working again," he told reporters.
"I was really nervous before the race because you don't work for yourself only, but also for the team.
"I had not prepared myself for this it's a dream. Our performance is unique."
Bjoerndalen can add a 14th medal to his collection in Saturday's relay event.
Ted Ligety became the first U.S. male alpine skier to win two Olympic gold medals following his triumph in Wednesday's giant slalom.
Ligety, 29, who won the super combined title in 2006, exorcised the demons of four years ago in Vancouver -- where he failed to finish in the medals.
"I have answered Vancouver questions for the last four years," he told reporters.
"I didn't do very well there. That hasn't bothered me that much. I moved on past that and my best years have been since then and, in a lot of ways, because of that. Those are always questions I get, even at World Cup."
Ligety had little problem dealing with the pressure on this occasion, carving out an advantage of 0.92 seconds after his first leg before coming home 0.48 ahead of Steve Missillier, with fellow Frenchman Alexis Pinturault claiming bronze.
"It was a huge relief," he added following his victory.
"I have been wanting to win this medal for my whole life and even more so, in a realistic sense. in the last few years. All season long everyone talks about the Olympics, Olympics, Olympics.
"At a certain point I was just like, 'Let's do it already. Let's get this thing over with, so we can stop talking about the pressure and everything with it.'
"It's awesome to be able to come here and be able to compete and do it, and finally get the monkey off the back."
Six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller has confirmed that he will not take part in Saturday's slalom after suffering a knee injury in the giant slalom, where he finished 20th
The American, who missed the whole of last season after undergoing knee surgery, became the oldest alpine ski medalist at the age of 36 years and 127 days when he finished third in the men's super-G at Sochi.
"I'm bummed I'm out for the slalom, I wanted a miracle. Thank you all for the amazing support, it's been incredible," tweeted Miller.