MotoGP rookie Marco Simoncelli was within sight of his first podium finish in the premier-class, when it was whipped away from him by factory Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso at Estoril on Sunday.
The two Italians battled for most of the race and swapped places twice on the last lap alone, which ended with factory Honda rider Dovizioso passing the satellite Honda of Simoncelli as they raced towards the chequered flag to grab third by 0.059sec.
The pair - who have been racetrack rivals since they contested minimoto races together in the late 1990s - likened the duel to their frequent confrontations as youngsters.
“It was quite an aggressive battle with Simoncelli but it has always been like this with him, so I needed to have a strategy for the last lap," said Dovizioso. "He was faster than me in T3 and T4 and every time into the chicane he overtook me, but I knew that it was possible to take him out of the last corner because I had a bit more speed onto the straight, so this was my plan - and it worked."
"Dovizioso was a little bit faster than me on the straights but I still thought I could beat him," said Simoncelli, whose previous best finish was sixth. "Unfortunately I made a tiny mistake in the final turn and lost a little bit of speed onto the straight, which gave him the advantage over the line.
"It was a shame but I am still delighted because this feels almost as good as a podium to us. Over the last four or five races I have been consistently on the pace from Friday practice and we did it again here at Estoril. Obviously we still have to work to improve the bike, especially the electronics, if we want to be on the podium but maybe we can do that at Valencia."
Simoncelli's job will aim to defend eighth in the championship from Randy de Puniet (five points behind) at this Sunday's final round, while Dovizioso is now within ten points of Casey Stoner.
"Now it's possible to fight with Stoner for fourth place in the championship and - although it will be difficult because he was fast here before he crashed and also has a ten point lead - this will be our target for Valencia next weekend," said Dovi.