The Norwegians snatched gold from the Germans by only one tenth of a second, coming home in a time of 51:36.7 minutes to seal the win.
Austria finished a further eight seconds back in third after a thrilling finale that saw the Germans come so close and yet fall short of delighting their home crowd.
It was Austria who made the early running and led at the first intermediate checkpoint with Norway second and Germany biding their time in third.
But the Norwegians gradually began to assert their dominance and had hit the front at the halfway stage while Germany had also closed the gap on the Austrians.
And that set up a grandstand finish between the three nations with France a distant fourth on a day when the Norwegians were not to be denied.