Casey Stoner returned to the top step of the MotoGP podium after a race long battle with Valentino Rossi during the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, which ended with Stoner's third home victory in a row and Rossi on the brink of his seventh MotoGP crown.
The race began with drama when Rossi's only remaining title rival, Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, crashed out at the very first turn.
Starting fourth on the grid, Lorenzo was passed on either side by Ducati riders Nicky Hayden and Mika Kallio on the approach to turn one, then clipped the back of Hayden as the field hit the brakes.
Unable to make the turn, Lorenzo lost control of his M1 and was dumped onto the asphalt before bouncing through the grass and gravel. Hayden also ran off track, but remained on two wheels.
Rossi, whose title advantage had been cut to 18 points over Lorenzo heading into the event, was immediately informed of the Spaniard's exit via his pit board - allowing him to focus on fighting Stoner for victory.
Stoner had taken the lead from fast-starting Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa on lap two, with Rossi soon pushing the Spaniard back to third.
As predicted, the two world champions soon broke away from the field, with Stoner - riding in a special white livery with an Australian flag on the side of his Ducati - just half a second ahead of Rossi by the halfway point of the 27 laps.
The race proved the toughest test possible for Stoner's improving physical condition, having missed three rounds due to fatigue problems, and the #27 proved more than up for the task - absorbing intense pressure from Rossi for the rest of the race.
The 24-year-old kept his sliding Desmosedici just out of The Doctor's reach to take his third victory of the season - but first since round five at Mugello - by 1.935sec, after Rossi backed off in the final turns. Stoner has now retaken third in the championship by six points from Pedrosa.