Like so many of their battles over the years, their 27th clash was a feast of shot-making, with exhilaration and suspense served up in equal measure under the lights of a heaving Rod Laver Arena.
Amid an atmosphere more akin to a football match, Nadal's brute force triumphed over the Swiss's artistry as he captured the decisive break at 4-4 in the fourth set and closed it out on the second match point when Federer blasted a forehand long.
With raucous cheers ringing from the stands, Nadal tossed his gear at his chair after victory and slid out on to the blue centre court on his knees, leaning back to gaze at the night sky.
"It's always a pleasure being on this court," the world number two said in a courtside interview.
"It's an honour to play Roger. It was a fantastic match.
"It's just amazing to have one player in front of you who has no mistakes and a totally complete game."
In Image: Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland