The News of the World responded to the threat of a "spoiler" statement from attorney general Lord Goldsmith about his affair with QC Kim Hollis by breaking the story on its website on Saturday evening.
The NoW put the allegation of an extra-marital affair to Goldsmith on Saturday afternoon. It followed news earlier in the week that director of public prosecutions Ken Macdonald was having an affair with another female barrister.
Goldsmith responded to the enquiry by putting out a general statement admitting the affair — thereby spoiling the NoW's exclusive.
The NoW decided to break the story on its website at 5.30pm — ensuring it was referenced as the source by broadcasters who then picked the story up.
As a rule, the NoW puts a broad range of its newspaper stories up on the web at between midnight and 2am — but does not publish every story.
Associate editor Gary Thompson said: "It is quite rare for us to break a story on the web on Saturday afternoon, but it is becoming more and more common.
"It was a bit of a race between us and the Mail on Sunday, but the News of the World is all about breaking stories first.
We felt it was our story and we wanted to break it first."
The story ended up appearing in most of last week's Sunday newspapers and was promoted on the NoW's front page with a lead on page 7.