France clinched the RBS 6 Nations Championship on points difference from Ireland after snatching a late victory over Wales in Cardiff.
Florian Fritz's try six minutes from time finally killed off a brave Welsh side, who had produced their best performance of a difficult season.
Ireland had been left with an outside chance of stealing the title from French hands, but they needed to beat England by 34 points at Twickenham.
Eddie O'Sullivan's men stunned the world champions with a dramatic late 28-24 victory that secured the Triple Crown, but it was not enough to overhaul the French.
Back at the Millennium Stadium, some two hours after beating Wales, France were confirmed as champions and captain Fabien Pelous lifted the trophy under a shower of champagne sprayed by his team-mates.
Pelous admitted his side's triumph had exceeded their own expectations.
"Now we've won this tournament we are very happy," he told BBC1.
"At the beginning of the tournament we didn't think we would win the trophy but we worked a lot and now we can take the trophy to France.
"For that I am very proud of my players."
It may not have been a classic championship triumph for France but coach Bernard Laporte was proud of his men's battling qualities.
"You always need a bit of luck. You can never have a perfect 80 minutes but we have won four times," said Laporte.
"We are not yet world champions but we are proud of these players. There have been matches in which we have not been brilliant, but we won four times and that means something."
France team manager Jo Maso lavished praise on the squad and believes they are on course to match their football cousins by lifting the World Cup in Paris next autumn.
"We have won 13 of the last 15 matches over three years in the Six Nations (since the last World Cup). We are undefeated in France in seven matches since November.
"We have also got the record number of points since 2000 in the Six Nations. This team is going to go a long way," said Maso.
After Ireland's heroic big-game hunt of the Springboks and Scotland's six-try runaround of the Pumas, the challenge of engineering the most spectacular win of the autumn series now falls on Wales, writes Peter Jackson.