It could be described as the loneliness of the short distance runner.

The United States grasped their second chance to reach the Olympic women’s 4×100 metres final with both hands on Thursday, but found themselves in a league of their own after astonishingly racing alone around the Rio track in 41.77 seconds.

It was worth the effort as they knocked China out of the last eight.

The reigning champions appealed against the result of a morning heat, in which Allyson Felix bungled the second baton exchange, arguing that the four-times Olympic gold medallist had been bumped by a Brazilian athlete before the handover.

USA's English Gardner (R) grabs the baton from USA's Allyson Felix as they compete in the Women's 4 x 100m Relay Round 1 re-run during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 18, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Adrian DENNIS

USA’s English Gardner (R) grabs the baton from USA’s Allyson Felix as they compete in the Women’s 4 x 100m Relay Round 1 re-run during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The appeal was upheld, but without the option of a rerun, the Americans were given a target of beating 42.70 seconds to qualify for the final in place of China, who were the slowest of the original finalists.

The time was easily within the capability of the world record holders and Tianna Bartoletta, Felix, English Gardner and Morolake Akinosun ensured there would be no mistake with the second fastest time of the year.

“Honestly, I feel like it was just a glorified practice,” English Gardner said. “We just had fun out there. We were laughing and joking going in, staying light, and that was the whole point.”

Felix, however, was simply glad of the place in the final. “Very relieved,” she said. “I just wasn’t sure how a situation like that played out. I have never been in that situation before, but I am happy that we got a shot at it.

“I didn’t want to bump anyone out of a slot but then again we were impeded.”

Slow motion TV replays clearly showed Brazilian Franciela Krasucki bumping Felix just before she attempted to hand over the baton to Gardner.

A despairing Felix threw the baton in the general direction of Gardner as they approached the end of the handover zone but it missed its target and tumbled to the track.

USA's Morolake Akinosun (L) and USA's English Gardner compete in the Women's 4 x 100m Relay Round 1 during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 18, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Jeff PACHOUD

USA’s Morolake Akinosun (L) and USA’s English Gardner compete in the Women’s 4 x 100m Relay Round 1 during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

After the initial shock, Felix had the presence of mind to get Gardner to pick it up and continue running so the team at least completed the race, albeit in last place.

“Everything was happening so quickly,” the 30-year-old said.

“I knew what had happened, I knew that’s not how it goes and I knew we had to finish in order to have a good shot at the appeal.”

The Chinese, who had unsuccessfully appealed against the successful American appeal, will have grounds for feeling hard done by after only being placed eighth behind the Canadians by six thousandths of a second.

The United States will join arch-rivals Jamaica, Britain, Germany, Ukraine, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada in Friday’s final.