Total carnage. The heats were supposed to provide a nice, easy straight forward qualification but instead served up the kind of baton changing that would have been a disgrace at a school sport's day as the 15-time former winners USA and defending champions Great Britain were both disqualified.
On top of that Nigeria, Poland and South Africa all suffered the dreaded DNF in heat one and Italy were also DQd and in heat two. We could barely raise enough teams for the final.
It all looked to be very sensible from the US team in heat one. During the first two changes they adopted a safety first policy and entered the final change marginally ahead of Trinidad and Tobago on their outside.
Yet as Darvis Patton handed on to World 100m champion Tyson Gay, who had disappointingly crashed out of the 100m semi-finals, his Games went from bad to worse as the baton slipped out of his grasp. The USA were out.
Gay took resposibility for the error and admitted: "I tried to reach for it, but it wasn't there. I should have made sure. I guess it's my fault."
Maybe distracted by the USA's blunder Nigeria, the 2004 bronze medallists, and South Africa also messed up their last exchanges and Poland also crashed out, which left only four teams to complete the one lap with baton in hand.
Trinidad, anchored by the Olympic 100m silver medallist Richard Thompson, took the heat win, for what it was worth, in 38.25 from Japan 38.52. The Netherlands in 38.87 took the third automatic spot and Brazil in 39.01 qualified as one of the two next fastest.
The second heat also provided thrills and spills, although both Great Britain and Italy would rather prefer that it hadn't.
Jamaica, the red-hot favourites, even without there Olympic 100m champion Usain Bolt running in the heats, showed how it should be done and cruised to victory anchored by former World record holder Asafa Powell in 38.31.
The British quartet crossed the line second, however, they were subsequently disqualified after anchor leg runner Craig Pickering took off too early and grabbed the baton from incoming Marlon Devonish out of the exchange zone.
Pickering offered an honest appraisal and said: "I feel like I let myself down. I let my country down."
Canada, the 1996 Olympic champions, profited to claim second in 38.77. Germany took third in 38.93 and there was delight for the hosts as China qualified as one of the two next fastest in 39.13.
The only two teams who finished not to qualify for the final were Thailand (39.40) and France (39.53).
Steve Landells for the IAAF