Geological and geochemical evidence suggest that the Oman ophiolite is a fragment of a submarine arc-basin complex formed above a short-lived subduction zone in the mid-Cretaceous. Detailed studies of the lava stratigraphy and the intrusive relationships of dykes, sills and high-level plutons provide further evidence for the magmatic and tectonic development of the complex in question. Four consecutive events can be recognized to have taken place before emplacement: (1) eruption of basalts of island arc affinity onto pre-existing (Triassic) oceanic crust; (2) creation of new oceanic crust by back-arc spreading; (3) intrusion of magma into this back-arc oceanic crust accompanied by eruption of basalts and andesites from discrete volcanic centres; (4) further intrusion of magma accompanied by uplift and eruption of basalts and rhyolites in submarine graben. A combined structural and geochemical analysis of the dyke swarm indicates that extension took place in approximately a N-S (ridge) and an ESE-WNW (leaky transform) direction relative to an inferred direction of subduction to the NE, and that a small but significant proportion of the sheeted dykes were injected during the 'arc' rather than the earlier 'back-arc spreading' episode. These various observations can be explained in terms of the progressive response of a non-isotropic lithosphere to the stresses induced during subduction.