The quartet, who saw Dwain Chambers run a powerful final leg to cross the line in third position, were on their way to their medal presentation when they were told a faulty second handover between Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and James Ellington had led to a disqualification.
While there was agony for the men there was ecstasy for the women as two hours later their four – including Hull’s Annabelle Lewis – were upgraded to bronze from fourth position.
The French women’s team, who had taken silver, were disqualified for the same mistake which cost the British men after the British management lodged a protest.
The women had already left the Luzhniki Stadium and were back at their hotel when they were given the good news.
For the men, though, it was the same old story as for the sixth time in seven major championships they made a critical error and ended up wondering what might have been.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Aikines-Aryeetey. “I feel like s***. You’re going out there to get your medal and then someone stands in front of you and says, ‘Sorry to be the bearer of bad news’.
“I don’t understand, it just doesn’t feel real. I gave him the baton, I ran for my life.
“We are in the industry where this is our bread and butter. This means a lot to us and we worked so hard for this.
“It does take its toll. You can only get knocked down so many times.
“We are going to come back fighting, we are going to give our all next time, but this still cuts deep. You can’t take away how much this hurts us.”
It was all the more galling given the team had already completed their lap of honour, Chambers wearing a bowler hat and draped in a Union Flag.
He had come flying down the home straight to bring the team home in third place, with Usain Bolt anchoring Jamaica to gold.
The quartet of Adam Gemili, Aikines-Aryeetey, Ellington and Chambers clocked a season’s best of 37.80 seconds, but it proved irrelevant and is now wiped from the record books. Canada were promoted to bronze in their place.
Britain’s women soon saw the team’s medal tally bumped back up to six, though, within the UK Sport target of six to eight. It left them seventh in the medal table, with three golds and three bronzes.
The young quartet of Dina Asher-Smith, Ashleigh Nelson, Lewis and Hayley Jones were initially edged out of the medals by 0.12secs by the United States.
Elsewhere, the 1,500m final proved one race too far for Chris O’Hare, who finished well adrift in last place, clocking 3:46.04.