Stroke causes heterogeneous changes in tissue oxygenation, with a region of decreased blood flow, the penumbra, surrounding a severely damaged ischemic core. Treatment of acute ischemic stroke aims to save this penumbra before its irreversible damage by continued ischemia. However, effective treatment remains elusive due to incomplete understanding of processes leading to penumbral death. While oxygenation is central in ischemic neuronal death, it is unclear exactly what actual changes occur in interstitial oxygen tension (pO2) in ischemic regions during stroke, particularly the penumbra. Using the unique capability of in vivo electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) oximetry to measure localized interstitial pO2, we measured both absolute values, and temporal changes of pO2 in ischemic penumbra and core during ischemia and reperfusion in a rat model. Ischemia rapidly decreased interstitial pO2 to 32% +/- 7.6% and 4% +/- 0.6% of pre-ischemic values in penumbra and core, respectively 1 hour after ischemia. Importantly, whilst reperfusion restored core pO2 close to its pre-ischemic value, penumbral pO2 only partially recovered. Hyperoxic treatment significantly increased penumbral pO2 during ischemia, but not in the core, and also increased penumbral pO2 during reperfusion. These divergent, important changes in pO2 in penumbra and core were explained by combined differences in cellular oxygen consumption rates and microcirculation conditions. We therefore demonstrate that interstitial pO2 in penumbra and core is differentially affected during ischemia and reperfusion, providing new insights to the pathophysiology of stroke. The results support normobaric hyperoxia as a potential early intervention to save penumbral tissue in acute ischemic stroke.