Guided by team-mate Mark Renshaw who baited the likes of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) and Andre Greipel (Lorro-Soudal) into riding in the wind for around 300 metres, Cavendish safely tucked in behind Sagan popping out and around the World Champion with under 100 metres to go.
Kittel, Sagan, and Greipel could only look on as the Manx Missile disappointed numerous pundits and bookies who didn't have him on their pre-stage radar. With Cavendish's goal of Olympic gold on the track in August, his form was discounted.
The win sees Cavendish in yellow for his and his team's first time.
"It's phenomenal. It was my third opportunity and my first without bad luck. I don't really know what to say."
"It's an honour I've never had before and what better way than here at Utah Beach" he said acknowledging the sacrifice of thousands during the 1944 World War 2 D-Day landings in Normandy.
"We wanted this, I did this for my team and the continent of Africa, to get 5000 kids on bikes."
Cavendish said post-interview it was the second time he has tried for yellow while his daughter was at the race, just as Delilah came running up to him.
"What did Daddy win you?" asked Mark Cavendish.
"Flowers," said Delilah Grace Cavendish.
It is Cavendish's 27th Tour de France stage victory.
The final 1km was marred by several riders hitting the ground at around 70kph an hour. Reports suggest a rider either clipped a barrier foot or a leaning spectator. Michael Morkov (Katusha) seemed the most affected and it is not known at this stage the full extent of any injuries.
Australian Leigh Howard (IAM) animated the stage early on joining a break away with Bora-Argon 18 pair Jan Barta and Paul Voss not long after the gun, their lead out to 3 minutes and 30 seconds in 10km.
The Bora-Argon pair with polka dots on their mind took it in turns to attack Howard for the first KOM classification climb of Cote d'Avranches. A chasing Alex Howes (Cannondale) and Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital) caught Howard and Barta while Voss stayed out ahead until after the second climb of Cote des Falaises de Champeux. Voss fell back to his pursuers with the polka dot jersey secured.
Howard took the intermediate sprint with 70kms to go after which the five-man breakaway lost impetus. Just Howes and Delaplace remained with 40kms to go and did so with no more than a maximum gap of 30 seconds until 5km to go.