A technical hitch overshadowed the climax of an evening celebrating the best of British sport after the video link with the unexpected winner Sir Mo Farah, went down.
The drama throughout the evening had been building with montages of the finalists of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year showing the 2017 exploits of the country's superstars.
Videos of contenders were shown, including those depicting the achievements of heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua, Paralympic star Jonny Peacock and Formula One's Lewis Hamilton.
But when Olympic distance running legend Farah was announced the winner, the line between the Echo Arena in Liverpool where it was held and west London where Farah was, went down.
He was the unexpected victor with only 50-1 odds on him beforehand, well behind Joshua who was the odds-on favourite. When hosts Gary Lineker and Gabby Logan went to Farah, the screen went blue and they lost the live feed.
It was up to former Olympic 200m and 400m champion Michael Johnson to step in and say a few words about Farah whose athletics exploits are at the opposite end of the spectrum on the track.
It was an anti-climax to an evening which saw heptathlete Jessica Ennis win a lifetime achievement award and a moving tribute to Bradley Lowery, the six year old Sunderland fan who died this year from cancer and whose parents accepted the Helen Rollason award on his behalf.
ITV presenter Piers Morgan described the end of the show as an "absolute shambles" while Gary Lough, husband of women's marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, and who is coaching Farah in the marathon, was caught apparently mouthing the words "that's a f***ing joke", most likely in reaction to the technical glitches.
Earlier, Farah's son Hussein, who he was bouncing on his knee, pulled off his father's microphone and had to be taken out of shot by his step-daughter Rihanna. Farah, who won gold and silver at the World Athletics Championships in London this year, eventually told BBC Five Live: "It is pretty amazing and hard to think about.
"I didn't imagine I was ever going to win this but anything can happen. If you work hard you can achieve your dreams...I just cannot believe I have won."
Farah took the prize with 83,524 votes nearly 3,000 ahead of second-placed Rea, while Peacock took third with 73,429, with favourite Anthony Joshua in fourth place.
Earlier, cyclist Chris Froome answered his critics in a video interview following a montage of his victories this year. Last week, he tested positive to twice the legal amount of asthma drug salbutamol.
He said: "This is quite a horrible situation. We're working as hard as we can to get to the bottom of it. I do completely get it, I understand the concerns. I've been a bike rider for 10 years, so I know how some people might look at our sport.
"I'm an asthmatic and have been since I was a child. I have a puffer to manage my asthma, and I've never taken more puffs than I should."