British Superbike Champion Shane Byrne needed to be at his absolute best to survive an all out assault from Sean Emmett as he claimed victory in the first race of the day at Donington Park.
In front of a huge Donington Park crowd Byrne snatched the lead from fast starting John Reynolds before the end of the opening 2.5-mile tour but any hopes of a clean getaway aboard the black MonsterMob Ducati were dashed as Emmett bullied his way past Reynolds and Michael Rutter to latch onto Byrne's rear wheel shortly before the half way point of the 20 lap battle.
Riding the same bike that the late Steve Hislop rode to Championship glory for MonsterMob last year, Emmett was taking no prisoners as he and Byrne ran elbow to elbow through Fogarty's esses on lap 12. On lap later Emmett tried the same move with more success only to find Byrne returning the favour through the final Goddard's hairpin.
There was more side by side action as Emmett forced his way back to the front going into Redgate on lap 14 and it took Byrne more than two laps to remount his challenge, taking the lead once again in the first turn on lap 16.
Emmett wasn't broken yet though and fought back with another wild move into Fogarty's on the penultimate lap although, crucially, his over exuberance on this occasion allowed Byrne back in front by the Melbourne hairpin. This time Byrne stayed ahead and took the chequered flag less than half a second ahead of Emmett to the rapturous applause of a truly thrilled Superbike crowd.
Reynolds finished third, just two seconds behind the leading two after a similarly enticing scrap with Rutter although the Silver Rizla rider had to play second fiddle to the leading pair during the closing laps, his tyres not capable of pushing to Emmett-type limits.
Rutter faded away in the final laps, crossing the line ten seconds adrift in fourth place and only two seconds ahead of the superbly ridden Kawasaki 750 of Glen Richards. Chasing Richards to the line after the best ride of his season was the second Hawk Kawasaki of Scott Smart with Leon Haslam seventh on Rutter's sister Renegade Ducati and Gary Mason eighth on the best Yamaha.
Niall Mackenzie's return to action after a three-year layoff began with a good start from the second row of the grid but ended inauspiciously after eleven laps with throttle problems resulting from an earlier trip into the Coppice gravel. The veteran Scot got further than Honda's Steve Plater however, who was ruled out of the meeting when he collapsed in his motorhome suffering from painful gallstones.