Valentino Rossi beat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo for the first time since round one in Qatar, after a thrilling no-holds-barred contest for third place at Motegi on Sunday.
Rossi had been held up by title leader Lorenzo in the early stages of the race, but once ahead could not shake the young Spaniard, who then began attacking the departing seven time MotoGP champion in the closing stages.
Fuelled by pride and competitive instinct, the pair swapped places four times on the penultimate lap - including some fairing bashing as Rossi moved back ahead - and then twice more on the last lap, as Rossi won the position by half a second.
In terms of technical difference, Rossi was running the latest Yamaha engine, while Lorenzo had the softer option front tyre.
"What a great race! Of course I would have preferred to be battling for the win but anyway it was a great feeling, a real show and I want to congratulate Jorge because he was very strong and didn't give up!
"Unfortunately I lost time at the start when he passed me so Stoner and Dovizioso got away, and by the time I passed him again they were too far ahead. At the end I was tired and my tyre was sliding a lot, it was a bit softer than I would have liked, so I knew I was going to be in trouble but I wanted the podium so much.
"Jorge came back at me and we had a great battle, proper racing - I think everyone watching enjoyed it."
There had been suggestions that Rossi might help Lorenzo to the title, but Rossi's team manager Davide Brivio said he wasn't surprised by the ferocity of the battle
"When two strong riders have the chance to fight like this it is always going to create a lot of enjoyment and Jorge didn't give up, but it was better for Valentino this time!" he said. "We hope to see more of this for the fans and everyone watching."