Hiroshi Aoyama will head into the final round of the last ever 250cc World Championship with a dominant 21 point advantage over Marco Simoncelli, after a hard earned victory at Sepang in Malaysia on Sunday.
French privateer Jules Cluzel turned his first ever front row start into the race lead at turn one, and did his growing reputation no harm at all by continuing to head the field until being overtaken by Simoncelli on lap four of 20.
Reigning champion Simoncelli had fought has way forwards from just eighth on the grid, including a lunge inside Aoyama on lap three.
Aoyama, who began the race with a 12 point lead over Simoncelli on the day of his 28th birthday, had dropped back to fourth after a botched attempt to take the lead from Cluzel early in the race - but a far neater pass on lap five put the Scot Honda rider second only to Simoncelli.
Aoyama then dived for the lead into the final hairpin, but Simoncelli kept the inside line and chopped firmly across the Japanese on the exit - forcing Aoyama over the kerb.
Aoyama shook his head in obvious displeasure at the incident, and momentarily lost second to Cluzel soon after, but had regrouped and regained second by the end of the lap.
The #4 repeated the hairpin move with more success on lap eleven - but was repassed by Simoncelli on the home straight, pushed Simoncelli wide at turn one and then lost out to Simoncelli again at turn two!
Aoyama's next attack came with a surprise pass on lap 13, prompting a repeat of the side-by-side action through turns one and two, which this time ended with Aoyama on top.
A later lunge by Simoncelli was also rebuffed and Aoyama had gained vital bikelengths over Simoncelli and the spectating Hector Barbara with six laps to go.