Trailing eventual victor Paul Casey by two shots with two holes to play, Woods rolled in a curling 44-foot birdie putt on the 17th to sensationally sustain his hopes of claiming a first PGA Tour title since 2013.
Unfortunately, for the headline writers and fans who packed the fairways at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, the fairytale finish was not quite to be, with Woods unable to back up with the birdie on 18 that was required to force a playoff with leader Paul Casey of England.
Former world number one Woods, playing his fourth US PGA Tour event since returning in January from spinal fusion surgery last April, fired a three-under-par 68 for a four-under total of 138.
The 40-year old Cheltenham-born Casey last won on the PGA Tour in capturing the 2009 Houston Open and in the intervening period has contested 155 Tour events before being handed the Valspar "Paint Brush" trophy.
He finished joint second with fellow American Patrick Reed, who bogeyed the 18th to miss out on a play-off. He'll be on top form when we get there [Augusta National] and I'm looking forward to it. "Little mistakes will get you over the course of a week and it got me in the end".
"I won a few times in Europe (13) but to get my second victory on the PGA Tour, it's emotional". I played very conservatively into the greens because I just wasn't as sharp as I was yesterday.
And here he is, one shot out of the lead, and knowing that his work is not done.
The insanity began ramping up when Woods at the last minute added the tournament at LaCava's urging. "I had a chance today".
In a greenside bunker at the par-five fifth, Woods blasted out to five feet and made the putt for a birdie that moved him to five-under for the tournament and put him alone atop the leaderboard.
"It's got to the point where it's gone the other way, where actually I'm playing very free golf, very relaxed and very at peace with whatever happens on the golf course".
Unlike the days when Woods, 42, expected to win from such a position, he is keenly aware of what he has overcome in a short time.
Asked how he felt being in the mix for a tournament once again, Woods responded: 'It felt very comfortable, I remember it and my game is sharp, it was a good day. He said he idolized Tiger as a kid. It's the thing that's been holding me back and the frustrating thing for a couple of years. Next week: Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
But Woods, a bit off in his iron control on Sunday, left his approach 39 feet short of the cup and his two-putt gave him a closing one-under 70.
Woods has proved he can play again. "I thought a lot about it on Sunday in Mexico as she passed I found out Saturday night Mexico week", he said.
'It's early in the season, it's a long year, ' he said.