Morris, 29, led from the front in the four-man super final, pulling off a “double-full full-full” with the first jump, scoring 110.41 and daring the other three finalists to better it.
Three-time Olympian Anton Kushnir from Belarus, who jumped second, managed the highest scoring jump possible – a five twisting somersault – to score an extraordinary 134.50 points and move into the the gold medal position.
With two highly-credentialled Chinese skiers to come, Morris’ chances of winning a medal were starting to look bleak. He said afterwards that he knew the skiers to follow had much better jumps in their repertoire and fully expected they would overtake him.
But reigning world champion Qi Guangpu, who went for the same jump as the Belarusian, ended up on his backside, ensuring that Morris would win a medal of some description.
Then Chinese skier and 2013 World Cup No. 1 Jia Zongyang did not complete a proper landing. His score of 95.06 gave him the bronze medal.
Morris was ecstatic after landing his jump, and overwhelmed when he won a medal, hugging his fellow competitors, Lassila and members of his family.
He played his tactics perfectly. “I didn’t have a ‘five’ in me today,” he said. “I just threw down the only other trick I had and pretty much said ‘I’ve landed it, now you’ve got to beat me’. Two guys didn’t and it’s awesome.
“It was very surreal. I was watching the screen and I saw one crash and I was trying to hold on to my smirk. I thought ‘I don’t want to smile because you crashed. I hope you’re all right, but…’
“It’s amazing. I’ve imagined this for such a long time and it played out just as I have imagined.”
Morris qualified easily for the finals, but scraped through each stage thereafter.
With 12 skiers to be whittled down to eight for the second final, Morris came eighth. Then, with eight to be whittled down to four for the super final, Morris finished fourth.
Amazingly, the composition of the final – two Chinese, one Belarusian and one Australian – was identical to the women’s final, in which Lassila won bronze.
In qualifying, Morris performed the same jump that Lassila produced to take bronze in the women’s event. Lassila had a chat with Morris after his jump, and Morris said his fellow Victorian had been an excellent role model.
“When you watch what she can do it is incredible and she wrote me a little letter this morning saying good luck and some thoughts…which is very helpful,” he said.
“When she’s stressing out I help her and when I’m stressing out like today she helps me.”
The result is a vast improvement on Morris’ 13th at the Vancouver Olympics, where he finished 13th and missed the finals.
The defending champion in the event, Alexei Grishin of Belarus, and the current world No. 1, Liu Zhongqing, both failed to qualify for the final.
Morris was surprised to even make the super final. “I did a quad twist to get into the super-final, which was amazing. I’m actually surprised I made it in,” he said.
“I wasn’t super confident doing that skill, I basically just closed my eyes and waited for the ground to come and it was right in front of me.
“I’ve never nailed four jumps in a row like that before. That’s actually the first time I’ve got through that format before.”
He said Kushnir’s gold medal-winning jump was one of the best he had ever seen and was delighted the Belarusian had won gold after he crashed out at the Vancouver Olympics.
Australia’s Olympic Winter Institute chief Geoff Lipshut admitted initially rejecting Morris, but happily sung his praises.
“That performance tonight, he didn’t have the same top range as the other guys but he did everything he possibly could and played it to perfection,” he said.
“When Anton unleashed the monster it meant that the Chinese had to just go for broke – and the rest is history.”