Casey Stoner's hopes of a fourth consecutive Qatar Grand Prix victory came to an abrupt end when the Australian crashed out of the lead early in Sunday's 2010 season-opener.
Few will be surprised to read that world champion Valentino Rossi
subsequently won the race - his 104th in grand prix competition - but only after a thrilling race that finished with the top four riders covered by just 1.8sec.
Unbeaten in all four track sessions prior to the race, Stoner had slipped back to fourth at turn one before picking off Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden, Rossi and the fast-starting Dani Pedrosa
to take the lead on lap four of 22.
Rossi was slower to negotiate Pedrosa and by the time he took second, on lap six, Stoner was already over two-seconds clear - but that counted for nothing when the 2007 world champion lost the front of his Desmosedici at turn four and crashed out.
It marked the third time that Stoner has crashed out while leading a MotoGP race, after Brno and Misano in 2008.
That mistake should have handed Rossi a simple win, but the Fiat Yamaha star found 2006 title rival Hayden - who had qualified just ninth - stubbornly sticking with him, while Pedrosa's Repsol Honda was replaced at the front by team-mate Andrea Dovizioso.
The trio were less than a second apart as the halfway point of the 22 laps came and went, with Dovizioso taking over from Hayden as Rossi's biggest threat soon after.
With seven laps remaining Dovizioso was actively looking to pass the reigning seven time MotoGP champion - and briefly took the lead by pulling out of the #46's slipstream at the start of lap 16.
Rossi got him back on the brakes and seemed to be stung into action as he promptly pulled a slight gap on Dovizioso - who was momentarily passed by the ever-present Hayden later in the lap.
The closing laps saw Rossi finally gain breathing room up front, while Dovizioso, Hayden and a charging Jorge Lorenzo
were nose-to-tail in the fight for the reaming podiums positions.