Staring at a low resolution version of the photo, which is what most of us punters do, it looks like a dead heat. But the commissaires fortunately pored over a super high resolution pic and proclaimed Kittel the winner of stage 7 after 213.5 kilometres raced from Troyes to Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Both Kittel and Boasson Hagen took advantage of of their well organised lead-out trains, the latter perfectly delivered by Reinardt Janse van Rensburg in the last throes to the line.
Kittel wasn't certain he'd taken his third victory of this year's Tour.
"When I crossed the line, I really had no clue if I won or not," he said.
"Before the finish, I knew it was going to be close. At 150m to go, I thought it was still 200, but luckily, the door opened on the right side I could pass Edvald..
"To reach twelve stage wins at the Tour is an incredible success. I'm in a great shape. I'm super happy. The lead out was great. It's just crazy. I already have three wins in this Tour. I'm so happy about that."
The Norwegian was equally happy with his team, a strong sprint train previously primed for Mark Cavendish.
"They took me all the way to the line with a perfect lead out," Boasson Hagen said. "It's a pity I couldn't finish it off. I'm not a pure sprinter so to be able to be up there on these flat stages gives me a lot of confidence for the remaining part of the Tour."
Kittel leapfrogged Arnaud Demare in the green jersey competition after receiving maximum points through victory, the Frenchman finishing well back in 11th (6 points).
The escapees Maxime Bouet (Fortuneo-Oscaro), Manuele Mori (UAE), Yohann Gène (Direct Energie) and Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale) were the first to contest the intermediate sprint, Mori scooping up the maximum 20 points.
As the bunch approached, Kittel preferred to sit back and watch Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Zdenek Stybar (QuickStep), Matthews and Demare fight it out for the points that remained, the German's teammate Stybar there to prevent Matthews and Demare to more points.
As it happened
Bouet, Mori, Gène and Van Baarle were off once the flag dropped, quickly building a two minute and 30 second advantage just several kilometres later.
The peloton was happy for this break to dangle off the front, but not too much as Lotto Soudal and QuickStep put a few riders up the front when the gap just pushed out just over four minutes after 25 kilometres covered.
Their advantage reduced significantly to one minute and 40 seconds after the intermediate sprint at Chanceaux, 105 kilometres from the finish.
Crosswinds were expected to trouble the bunch in the final 80 kilometres as sprint and GC teams like Lotto Soudal, Quickstep, Sky and Movistar were heralded to the front by nervous directors. But no echelons or splits eventuated, despite the apparent tension.
Although Fabio Aru (Astana) wore the polka dot jersey comfortably, Bouet still put up a good fight for the sole point on offer.
With the intermediate sprint and the KOM done, the inevitable catch loomed, coming at six kilometres to go as the sprinters prepared their trains.