Jubilant Slovak athletes give their coach a ducking after their dramatic European Games win today ©Getty Images

A dropped baton in the men’s 4x400 metres relay cost Austria the European Games athletics gold here tonight by the narrowest of margins as a jubilant, if shocked, Slovakia pushed them into second place.

The Austrians had reached the final event of the competition, which doubled as the European Team Championships Third League, with a margin of five-and-a-half points over the Slovaks, and needing only to finish within five places of them to secure overall victory.

But when their second leg runner Gunther Matzinger - who has a prosthetic on his right arm - dropped the baton 80m from his changeover as he overtook another runner, the case was calamitously altered for the leaders.

After scrambling back to retrieve the baton, Matzinger – the T46 800m gold medallist at the London 2012  Paralympics - was a picture of woe after passing it on.

And while Austria did manage to restore themselves to sixth place, when the winning time of the Georgian team which won the first 4x400m relay heat was taken into consideration they slipped down one more fateful place, missing top spot by half a point.

The medal ceremony was briefly delayed by an unsuccessful Austrian protest over the circumstances in which the baton was dropped.

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Gunther Matzinger, the London 2012 T46 800m Paralympic champion, takes over the baton for the Austrian 4x400m relay team before setting off on the second leg where he dropped it to disastrous effect ©Getty Images

Dominik Hufnagel, Austria’s first leg runner, commented: “I saw it again on TV - the baton fell to the floor and our guy had to go back and pick it up.

“We all feel kind of sad.

“We just expected a gold medal - that's what this is all about."

Josef Repcik, one of the Slovak 4x400m team, admitted that they had feared silver was the best they were going to get from these Games.

"We were afraid that Austria would win,” he said.

“It was very close but they dropped the baton, which was good for us but not great for them."

After clocking a winning men’s 4x400m winning time of 3min 08.80sec, the Slovakia took gold with 458.5 points.

Austria, who clocked 3:17.37, were done for by Georgia’s earlier winning time of 3:15.49 and eventually totalled 458, with Israel claiming gold on 439.

All three teams earned promotion to the European Team Championships Second League, along with fourth-placed Moldova, who scored 401.

On a day of sweltering heat, a crowd officially announced at 10,661 - and not looking too far short of that figure - had two home victories to celebrate.

Hayle Ibrahim, the naturalised Ethiopian who had won the 1500 and 5,000m in the space of 75 minutes yesterday, earned another maximum points score for Azerbaijan in the men’s 3,000m with a time of 7:54.14.

The most popular victory of the day, however, was claimed by local lad Nazim Babayev in a dramatic triple jump.

The 17-year old, who won bronze at the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing last year, saw his early lead eclipsed by Vladimir Letnicov of Moldova, who reached 16.24 metres.

But with his last jump, Babayev generated a huge roar of approval as he regained top spot with an effort of 16.38m, and celebrations began again after the Moldovan had fallen four centimetres short of that figure with a bold final effort.

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