Cambridge's women set a course record time during their emphatic win to end a run of four successive defeats to their bitter rivals.
Rebecca Esselstein, in the number four seat, made a mistake with her oar, an error known as catching a crab, soon after the start at Putney.
By the first mile marker they had opened up an unassailable lead of 10 seconds and were left to race only against themselves and the clock, winning in a record time that was faster than their men's team past year. The official winning distance was one boat-length-and-a-quarter but it was closing as the crews inched towards Chiswick Bridge.
Their victory in the 163rd Boat Race denied Cambridge their first back-to-back victories since 1999 and brought the balance between the two universities ever closer, with 80 wins against Cambridge's 82.
But there was no joy for Cambridge University Boat Club as they were beaten by their Oxford counterparts by just over a length in a gripping men's race.
Earlier, a World War Two era bomb, found in the Thames a few days before had put the race in doubt.
He said: "In my three boat races that is going to be my favourite".
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The victory was secured in 18min 33sec, with Oxford eventually crossing the line in 19.05, 32.66sec behind and 11 lengths adrift. "We knew on the race day that anything could happen. Past year we felt a bit robbed".
Disappointed Cambridge captain Lance Tredell delivered a defiant message ahead of next year's race: "Bitterly disappointed not to get the result today".
Club president Mike DiSanto, an American who raced at Rio 2016, underlined coach Bowden's importance to the squad. "The harder it is, the more you can savour it".
"Hats off to Cambridge - it was a good boat, we were just better on the day, that's what it's about".
However, it was not for Cambridge's tenacity or resilience as they produced move after move and battled as hard as they could to eat into Oxford's lead.
"It's extremely special, there's a special bond rowing with your brother", James Cook told the BBC.