Alex Lowes has taken the lead of the MCE British Superbike Championship following a thrilling victory over Shane 'Shakey' Byrne in the opening race at Silverstone.

Samsung Honda rider Lowes and Byrne battled all the way to the flag in a scintillating finish to the first race at the penultimate Showdown round, with Lowes clinging on to win by half-a-bike length at the line to open a four-point lead at the top.

Milwaukee Yamaha's Tommy Bridewell claimed the final place on the podium after prevailing in a race-long duel with Tyco Suzuki's PJ Jacobsen.

Australian rider Josh Brookes was forced to pull out on lap five with machine trouble on the Tyco Suzuki while holding third place and is now 48 points behind series leader Lowes.

James Ellison, who started from 18th place on the grid after a spill in Q2 ruled him out of the final qualifying session on Saturday, fought his way through the pack to finish fifth on the Milwaukee Yamaha and is now 14 points ahead of Brookes in the championship table.

Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki rider Byrne, who is feeling the effects of a big high-side in practice, blasted into the lead from Lowes, Brookes and Jacobsen on lap one.

However, the three-time BSB champion was quickly pushed back to second as Lowes hit the front with a move up the inside at the end of the Hangar Straight.

GBmoto Honda's Dan Linfoot and Noriyuki Haga on the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki tangled at Vale on the opening lap and crashed out unhurt.

Ellison had climbed to ninth place by the end of the first lap as the Showdown contender began to surge through the field.

With Lowes continuing to lead from Byrne at the front, Brookes' title hopes suffered a huge setback as the Suzuki rider retired with machine trouble on his GSX-R1000 on the fifth lap.

Jacobsen was promoted to third from Bridewell, with Jon Kirkham lying fifth.

At the half-way point Lowes held an advantage of half-a-second over Byrne with the warring duo well clear of Jacobsen and Bridewell, who were locked in their own personal battle for third.

Ellison overhauled Kirkham to take fifth spot and remained there until the finish, unable to close the gap to Jacobsen and Bridewell.

As the race entered the closing stages Byrne was looking menacing behind Lowes and closed in on the rear wheel of the Samsung Honda on the penultimate lap.

The Kawasaki star threw down the gauntlet with a pass at Maggots on the final lap to set up an exhilarating climax to the race.

Lowes, however, wasn't prepared to settle for second place and went around the outside of Byrne into Brooklands to retake the lead.

The pair were side by side as they powered through Woodcote but Lowes held on for his sixth win in seven races to assume the championship lead.

Bridewell passed Jacobsen for third on lap 12, finishing eight seconds in arrears, with Ellison and Kirkham on the Buildbase BMW completing the top six.

CLICK HERE to view Race 1 results