The last beacon of light was extinguished on Hamilton's Formula One world championship hopes on Sunday, a situation he described as "heartbreaking" in its aftermath.
Hamilton could only finish fourth in the Indian Grand Prix, a race won by Sebastian Vettel, the 24-year-old German's fourth in a row as he again dominated from lights to flag to open up a 13-point cushion over runner-up Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari.
It leaves Hamilton 75 points adrift of Vettel with only 75 up for grabs from the final three races in Abu Dhabi next Sunday, then the United States and Brazil next month.
To put the deficit into context, going into the Singapore GP where Vettel took advantage of a gearbox failure on Hamilton's car to set up his winning run, the Briton led the German at that stage by two points.
The title may be gone, but Hamilton would at least love one more win with McLaren before he signs off and joins Mercedes next season.
"It's still something I'd like to achieve," said Hamilton.
"I don't really know what's coming in terms of development over the next three races, but I still have faith in the team.
"It's going to be incredibly tough, but if I can drive like I did at the end in India - which for me was the best I've driven all year - and we've the pace at one of the races, then I believe we can win."
Hamilton has admitted one of his "now famous poor starts" sparked his early downfall, dropping him from third to fifth come the end of lap one after a superb tussle with team-mate Jenson Button and Alonso.
Following a 3.3secs pit stop to change five wheels - the four tyres and the steering wheel as it had developed a fault - a strong second stint saw him come within 0.6secs of a place on the podium, only to be pipped by Red Bull's Mark Webber.
"We were catching, and I pushed every lap, right to the chequered flag like always, but I just ran out of time," said Hamilton.
McLaren at least managed to bring two cars home as Button was fifth, with McLaren equalling a F1 record of having at least one car in the points for the 55th consecutive race.
For Button, first and last lap aside - the latter as he posted the fastest lap of the race - there was little to write home about for the 32-year-old.
"It was a great fight on the first lap. I think it was millimetres between us through the first few corners, and I really enjoyed it," said Button.
"But after that we didn't have the pace until we switched to the hard tyre and then the car felt really good.
"But being 10 to 11 seconds behind, I was never going to catch those in front.
"So the first and last laps were great. It's just a shame about all the others in the middle."