Andrea Dovizioso came within 0.224sec of winning his first MotoGP race of the season at Sepang on Sunday.
The Italian, carrying the Repsol Honda hopes alone after his team-mate Dani Pedrosa fractured his collarbone last weekend in Japan, trailed future champion Jorge Lorenzo for the first ten laps before seizing the lead at turn one.
Unfortunately for Dovizioso, another Fiat Yamaha rider, seven time champion Valentino Rossi, was now closing in fast on the leading duo and passed Lorenzo just a lap later.
Rossi overtook Dovizioso on lap 11 of 20, but Dovizioso stuck with the #46 - and even re-passed him briefly on lap 16. The pair were almost inseparable as the last lap began, but Rossi gave Dovizioso no opportunity to pass and crossed the line a fraction ahead.
“I'm very happy with this second place today and it was a great race," said Dovizioso, after his sixth podium of the year. "We have been fighting for the victory at the last two races at two very different tracks, and also in different conditions, so this is really positive.
"I tried to stay close to Valentino on the last lap but in the final braking area I wasn't close enough to take him in the middle of the corner, even though he was too late on the brakes and went wide. Anyway, this result for Honda, Repsol and my team is really important.
"Last year we were 40 seconds behind the winner in the race here, so to be just 0.2s behind means we've moved forward a lot. Also, in the middle of the season, we weren't on the podium for a long time, so to be back in the top three is very important for us."
Sepang was only the second event of the 2010 season to witness a victory margin of less than one-second. The other was round two at Jerez (+0.543sec).
“Again Andrea did a really good job today and he fought until the end and crossed the line less than a quarter of a second from victory," commented team manager Toshiyuki Yamaji.
"This is the closest he has come to winning in the dry and so we are very pleased with the progress of Andrea and his team. He battled hard and proved he has what it takes to win - he is very close to it now. Congratulations"
Dovizioso's team-mate and former title contender Dani Pedrosa missed the race through injury, but hopes to return next weekend in Australia.