Despite knowing that team-mate and title rival Jorge Lorenzo had crashed out of Sunday's Australian MotoGP, Valentino Rossi pushed race winner Casey Stoner from the first to last lap of the race.

The pair quickly pulled away from Honda's Dani Pedrosa as they challenged each other around the fast Phillip Island circuit, but Stoner wasn't to be denied a third home victory in a row - and Rossi knew a 'do or die' move was out of the question.

Finally rolling off the throttle with a few corners to go, the Fiat Yamaha rider has more than doubled his title lead from 18 to 38 points - and can be crowned MotoGP champion for the seventh time if he leaves next weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix with an advantage of 25 points.

"This was one of the most fun and definitely one of the most important second places of my career!" said Rossi. "We were on the limit for the whole race and there were some amazing slides, it was 'old-style' racing.

"Of course I wanted to win but Stoner had a huge rhythm in front. I had to use my head a bit and once I'd seen that Lorenzo was out, I knew that if I made a mistake it would be a big disaster!

"It was a great battle. I tried to attack in places and I gave my maximum three of four laps from the end for one final push, but it was too risky and anyway Casey really deserved this win; I want to give him my congratulations.

"We leave with 20 important points and now the championship lead is big and we can try to finish it in Malaysia, where we will have the first 'match point'," the Italian concluded.

"It is a pity that Lorenzo crashed, because who knows what kind of race this could have been with him in it as well?" commented Rossi's team manager Davide Brivio. "Valentino today rode with a big heart and a lot of fight, trying to win the race but also making sure he didn't lose these 20 points. He tried hard but never went over the top."

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