With Swift just metres away from a maiden Grand Tour stage win, Kittel soared past to take his second consecutive win and consolidate his lead in the red points jersey.
Italy's Elia Viviani (Cannondale) took third in the 187km stage from Armagh to Dublin ahead of compatriot Davide Appollonio (Ag2R-La Mondiale) and Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr).
It was Viviani’s Cannondale team that strung out the peloton as the race entered Dublin at an electrifying pace. Having recovered from an earlier crash, Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen then led the peloton through a tricky chicane inside the final 500m to set up his Sky team-mate Swift.
Despite losing contact with his rivals on the technical approach to the finish, Kittel kept his calm and used his superior kick to power through on the inside and take his seventh win of the season.
"It was close,” said an exhausted Kittel at the finish. "I thought I had lost because I was not in a good position. But I didn’t give up and I gave everything. I’m so happy that I still had enough [to take the win].”
Australia’s Michael Matthews - whose Orica-GreenEdge team won the opening time trial in Belfast on Friday - finished safely in the lead pack to retain the maglia rosa after the race’s opening three-day gambit in Ireland.
Matthews leads Italian veteran Alessandro Petacchi by eight seconds on GC after a split in the peloton saw some of his GreenEdge team-mates lose a handful of seconds.
A largely sleepy day in the saddle fluctuated between sunny blasts and heavy rain showers as the race crossed the border into Ireland and was truncated with numerous crashes on the road, with the likes of Michele Scarponi and Enrico Gasparotto (both Astana), Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Manuel Belletti (Androni) and Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) all hitting the deck in a roll-call of incidents.
Pink jersey Matthews himself took a tumble just over 50km from the finish but was quickly back on his bike to ensure he tops the standings as the race transfers to southern Italy on Monday.
FIVE-MAN BREAK: Yonder Godoy (Androni), Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin), Miguel Angel Rubiano (Colombia), Gert Dockx (Lotto Belisol) and Giorgio Cecchinel (Neri Sottoli) broke clear of the peloton after 5km to build up a maximum lead of almost seven minutes.
Tjallingii picked things up where he left off on Saturday, taking maximum points over both Cat.4 peaks to consolidate his lead at the top of the red jersey mountains classification. With the peloton closing in, Italy’s Cecchinel went for a last-gasp solo blast, only to be caught inside the final 8km.
KEY MOMENT: As soon as Kittel decided that he could defy logic and still reel in Swift, it was curtains for the only British rider in the race. Such is Kittel’s power and belief, it will take something special to beat the German in a flat bunch sprint once the race shifts to Italy.
BIG WINNER OF THE DAY: Kittel – who else? A second Giro stage win on his birthday – and a rest day to recover from the hangover after a pint or two of Guinness in Dublin.
BIG LOSER OF THE DAY: For the second consecutive day veteran Italian Francesco Chicchi (Neri-Sottoli) suffered a mechanical inside the last 5km, meaning he could not contest the sprint.
TAKING POINT: Despite quite terrible weather is it fair to say that the Giro was a staggering success in Ireland? Judging by the number of fans lining the roads and the general sea of pink that lapped against the sides of the roads, the locals really relished every moment.
COMING UP: The peloton will travel to south Italy on Monday before the race resumes with a perplexingly short, pancake-flat 112km stage from Giovinazzo to Bari.
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