José María Olazábal’s side won an absorbing singles session 6-4, with Francesco Molinari taking the anchor role as he did for the Spaniard in the Ryder Cup at Medinah last year.
On that occasion, he claimed a half-point against Tiger Woods as Europe defeated the United States, but the Italian went one better against Chris Wood, holing a six-foot birdie putt on the 16th to overcome the Englishman 3&2.
That sealed Continental Europe’s first victory in the biennial competition since the inaugural contest in 2000, and also ended Great Britain & Ireland’s streak of six wins in a row.
“This feels great for us,” said Molinari. “I played the last two before this, and it's never good to finish on the losing side, so we tried really hard. It was funny yesterday when Olazábal was reading the list, I kind of knew I was going to be last, but I was waiting every name, hoping to hear mine, and I didn't until the tenth spot.
“I tried to stay away from the leaderboards as much as possible today, but then obviously you see everyone coming up to your match and watching you. I tried not to do the maths, but I realised that I needed a half a point, so I wasn't going to hit my putt too firm obviously on the 16th. But it's good to finish in style.”
Great Britain & Ireland captain Sam Torrance had been forced to send his team out without the injured Simon Khan, whose back problem meant he could not face Molinari in the original final match up.
Thomas Björn was the man to miss out in turn for the Continental European’s, the Dane having gallantly volunteered to be ‘in the envelope’ as the nominated player in order to allow some of his younger teammates chance to gain more match play experience.
Those youngsters duly delivered, with home favourite Grégory Bourdy becoming the first player in the tournament’s history to win five points out of five, some sublime iron play helping him overcome Scott Jamieson 4&3.
"The boys played really well and I’m very, very happy to have won the Seve Trophy again after 13 years."
Joost Luiten had been chasing the same record but Tommy Fleetwood upset the form book to claim his first point of the week with a 3&2 victory over the Dutchman.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, another of Olazábal’s heroes from Medinah, held his nerve from five feet on the final green to see off Paul Casey following an epic duel, while Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño halved the opening singles match with Jamie Donaldson.
Marc Warren defeated Thorbjørn Olesen 4&3 to square the contest again at 12-12, but by then Continental Europe had full control of three of the last four ties.
Miguel Angel Jiménez had four birdies in his first six holes as he beat David Lynn 6&4, with the Englishman struggling due to illness.
Matteo Manassero delivered a short-game masterclass to see off Stephen Gallacher 3&2 to take Europe to the 14-point mark, before Paul Lawrie produced a magnificent chip of his own on the 17th to set up a 2&1 victory over Mikko Ilonen, closing the overall score to 14-13.
That meant the contest went down to the final match, where Molinari was two-up with three to play against Wood, who had dropped down the order after Khan’s withdrawal.
And cheered on by Olazábal, just as he was at Medinah 12 months ago, Molinari was embraced by his captain and teammates, as Continental Europe clinched an historic win, with the Italian holding his nerve on the 16th green.
Olazábal said: “Obviously I’m very emotional right now because this has been a tough day with everything going to the last match. But the boys played really well and I’m very, very happy to have won the Seve Trophy again after 13 years.
“We knew that starting the singles session all level, it was going to go down to the last three or four matches at least. We had a pretty good start, then Great Britain & Ireland took over and we started to see some red on the board.
“But the boys kept their composure and played really well, especially in those last few matches, they played really great golf and we managed to come out on top. I also think the first two matches were crucial, to get a point and a half out of those two, it was big.
“This is obviously a team contest but I must make special mention of Grégory Bourdy who was absolutely fantastic, especially playing in his home country and in front of his own people. The way he played, being a rookie, he did extraordinary well. Everyone contributed, but Greg did it in a big way.”
Torrance, who led Europe to Ryder Cup victory in 2002 at The Belfry, paid tribute to the winning side as well as his own battling players.
The Scot said: “The Continental European side were very strong and congratulations to them on the victory. We gave it everything, but we just came up short.
“It was always in the balance and although it got a bit difficult for us midway through the afternoon, we never gave up and fought back. Chris Wood holed a great putt on the 15th to keep his match going and give us hope, but it was a fantastic birdie by Francesco Molinari on the 16th to finish it off.
“So well done to José María and his team, and I think it’s also fair to say that golf was the winner as it was a wonderful event. The taste of defeat is never great, but we will learn from it and come back stronger next time.”