Motor Racing: Canadian Grand Prix - Hakkinen wins crunch encounter.
Hakkinen triumphed after his title rival had crashed out when seemingly cruising to a record win on Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
The Finn was virtually brought home to victory by the safety car to move four points ahead of Schumacher, with Benetton's Giancarlo Fisichella finishing second and Eddie Irvine third for Ferrari.
The pace car had to be deployed four times in an incident-packed 69-lap race which just 10 of the 22 starters finished.
Schumacher had powered into a lead of over four seconds after careering wildly across Hakkinen at the start to maintain the advantage of pole position.
But just when Ferrari were beginning to think about celebrating his hat-trick of wins on the track and a record fourth in six years, the German lost control at the final chicane on lap 30.
Schumacher smacked into the wall which tightly hugs that part of the track and skidded along the concrete, with his right-sided tyres ripped off, before coming to a stop just before the packed grandstands.
The 30-year-old was not alone as two of the men who succeeded him as world champion - Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve - both crashed at the same spot.
But Schumacher was a glum figure as he trudged back to the Ferrari garage hoping team-mate Irvine could stop Hakkinen, who had inherited a seven-second lead over the Ulsterman.
Irvine's hopes of challenging Hakkinen for a victory that would have taken him to the championship summit were soon wrecked, however, by fellow Briton David Coulthard.
The duo collided in dramatic fashion, just days after Irvine had incurred the wrath of Coulthard's boss Ron Dennis by claiming he was a better driver than the Scot and hinting he wanted his McLaren place.
The incident happened as Coulthard attempted to overtake Irvine for second place, moments after the safety car had left for the third time.
Local hero Villeneuve had caused its introduction after crashing out at the final chicane in his British American Racing car, hitting the same Quebec sign which enjoyed millions of pounds of free publicity.
Irvine held his line as Coulthard first tried to get by on the outside, then the inside of the first chicane before the cars touched, sending both on to the grass.
The duo managed to return to the track, but Irvine had dropped to eighth and Coulthard two places further back, with the McLaren driver also collecting a 10-second penalty from the stewards.
Irvine showed that, despite his sometimes ridiculous utterings, he is a talented driver as he charged though the field.
The 33-year-old almost had a collision with Johnny Herbert as he overtook the Stewart driver for fifth - both of them cutting out the chicane - before sweeping past the Williams of Ralf Schumacher a few laps later.
Irvine then took third place when Jordan's Heinz-Harald Frentzen crashed out three laps from the finish to remain third in the championship, now nine points behind Hakkinen.
The 30-year-old cruised to the line as the safety car left just before the chequered flag, officially winning by seven-tenths of a second from Fisichella, with Irvine one second adrift.
Ralf Schumacher was fourth with Herbert celebrating fifth - his first finish and first points for the team sold by Jackie Stewart to Ford for pounds 100 million a few days ago. Coulthard eventually finished seventh, behind Sauber's Pedro Diniz.
Frentzen was on course for second before he was sent out of control with mechanical problems, leaving team boss Eddie Jordan to pound his fists in frustration.
Hill's misery continued as the former champion crashed out when his Jordan slid into the wall coming into the home straight.
The 38-year-old's early departure, after qualifying in a disappointing 14th place, will only fuel speculation that this could be his last season in Formula One, the accident leaving him with just three points from the first six races.
The safety car had to be deployed twice in the opening five laps as the race lived up to its reputation as being one of attrition.
Italy's Jarno Trulli caused the early drama when he lost control of his Prost car at the first chicane, slewing across the grass before smashing into Stewart's Rubens Barrichello and Sauber's Jean Alesi.
Barrichello, who had started from a promising fifth place on the grid, coaxed the car back in to the pits where, after a lengthy delay, he rejoined the race only to retire at the end of the 15th lap.
Officials also had to send out the safety car when Ricardo Zonta's return to action, after missing the last four races through injury, turned into a brief affair when his British American Racing car slid into the wall.
A delighted Hakkinen said: "I feel really great. When I saw Michael going off, I didn't know what happened, but it was good for me."
Hakkinen, who went off in similar fashion in the San Marino Grand Prix, added: "When I went past him, I did think of what happened to me in Imola.
"The car felt great and we did not have any handling or technical problems. These things turn around and perhaps these guys (Ferrari) now have difficulties.
"I knew something would happen either for me or Michael because it always does at this race."
Irvine said: "When Michael went off I really started to push to catch Mika. David got a run at me and he ran very wide and I thought he'd gone off.
"But I took the turn and then I suddenly heard a clump behind me where David had hit. But I managed to keep going."