Tyco Suzuki's Josh Brookes took the honours in tricky conditions in the opening race at Brands Hatch as Alex Lowes moved to the top of the MCE British Superbike Championship courtesy of a gritty ride to second place.
Brookes broke clear in the early stages of the race and although Samsung Honda rider Lowes began to close on the last lap, the Australian followed up his pole position with a calculated victory on the GSXR-1000 to take the win by 0.968s after 18 laps.
Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki rider Shane 'Shakey' Byrne claimed the final pace on the rostrum but lost the title lead to Lowes, who now has three points in hand ahead of tomorrow's final two races.
Josh Waters claimed his best finish in the series with fourth place on the Halsall Racing Kawasaki, with PJ Jacobsen (Tyco Suzuki) and the hard-charging Tommy Bridewell on the Milwaukee Yamaha completing the top six.
On a greasy track, Byrne powered into the lead from the start but was quickly overhauled by Brookes and Lee Costello, with Lowes fourth.
Brookes eased away from the field, with Lowes passing Costello to move into third behind Byrne.
The top three soon opened a huge gap at the front, as Waters overhauled his team-mate to move into fourth.
Brookes' lead at half-distance was more than three seconds from Byrne, who was now falling into the clutches of a determined Lowes.
With a dry line beginning to appear around the circuit, Lowes began to have a look at Byrne and finally made his move on lap 14 at Graham Hill Bend.
Byrne had no answer to the pace of his title adversary and settled for a safe third place, while Lowes set about reeling in Brookes.
The Honda rider set his fastest lap of the race as he reduced the deficit to the long-time leader to around one second, but in the end he ran out of time and Brookes closed out the victory.