O'Connor needed a strong performance in the individual time trial to cement fourth spot with Wilco Kelderman (BORA-Hansgrohe) hot on his heels coming into the day 32 seconds behind in fifth place.
And while Kelderman put in a huge effort to try to catch him, O'Connor wasn't going to give anything up so close to the end of the race as he dug deep to finish the course in 38 minutes and 34 seconds and retain an 11 second lead in fourth, revealing the ride was far from a walk in the park.
“I’m really suffering now," O'Connor said after the stage.
"That was actually really horrible. I’m really tired and I’m just so happy now that we’ve made Paris.
"Just to make Paris is special, but now that I’m fourth overall is wild. It’s special and something that I’ll never forget."
The West Australian has managed to remain calm on the bike and not allow himself to be overwhelmed by the occasion of the Tour throughout, but admitted the relief of finishing the race and the sight of loved ones may be too much for him to handle.
“I had a moment yesterday with the crowds where I got the emotion and the feeling," O'Connor said.
"But I think when I get to Paris I’ll probably break down. I’ll see my fiancée and my family, and be a very happy man.”
After propelling himself to second on the general classification with an incredible win in Tignes, the 26-year-old has shown tremendous fight and endurance to remain alongside the elite riders in the world in his first appearance at the biggest race in the world.
And as he rides down the Champs-Elysees tomorrow, Australians will be watching with the knowledge that our next great contender has arrived, put the rest of the field on notice, and he's only just getting started.
The Tour de France concludes with the traditional finish in Paris on the Champs-Élysées for Stage 21. Watch the action from the later start time of 2300 AEST on SBS and SBS OnDemand, with the SKODA Tour Tracker and the racing action starting at 0005 AEST.