The car bomb was a crude concoction of ordinary items - fireworks, fuel and fertilizer - that authorities suspect was meant to cause maximum mayhem in the heart of Times Square.
In the end, the device fizzled and the city and its residents counted themselves lucky once again: lucky that a vendor saw smoke creeping out of the car parked in one of the busiest streets in America; lucky that authorities responded quickly; and lucky that the would-be terrorists were clumsy enough to assemble a bomb that wasn't capable of exploding.
But it was enough to fray nerves and set off a frenzied probe in what New York Police Department officials called the most serious car bomb plot in the city since the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, in which six people were killed and more than 1,000 injured.
"Clearly it was the intent of whoever did this to cause mayhem, to create casualties," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
The hunt was on Monday for a middle-aged man who was videotaped shedding his shirt near the sport utility vehicle where the bomb was found. Authorities also wanted to talk to the owner of the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder.