Reigning double MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo claimed a lights-to-flag victory in the 2013 season-opening Qatar night race.
Lorenzo held his pole position into turn one, then eased into the distance to win by almost six seconds.
However it was returning team-mate Valentino Rossi and MotoGP rookie Marc Marquez who stole the show with an enthralling late-race battle over second place.
Rossi had to fight his way up the order from seventh - twice!
Starting his first race for Yamaha since 2010, Rossi lit-up the opening lap as he charged from a disappointing third row start to fourth. But the Italian promptly misjudged a pass on Ducati replacement Andrea Dovizioso into turn one, forcing him to lift his M1 and run wide, handing back all the places he had gained.
Rossi then became stuck behind LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl - allowing Dani Pedrosa, Marquez and Cal Crutchlow to break away in the fight for second - before finally passing the German on lap 8 of 22.
Once unleashed, the seven time MotoGP champion ate into the three-second gap to the podium fight. Rossi then swept around Crutchlow along the home straight to move into fourth place, with four laps to go. Crutchlow ran on at turn one, ending his rostrum challenge, while Rossi immediately locked-on to Repsol Honda riders Marquez and Dani Pedrosa. Rookie Marquez had recently passed Pedrosa but been unable to escape.
Rossi wasted no time in forcing past the 2012 title runner-up, then muscled ahead of Marquez with just over two laps to go.
But the Moto2 champion lived up to his reputation by 'rolling up his sleeves' and slicing back under the #46 through the apex of turn one, at the start of the penultimate lap. Rossi retaliated once again and was just able to hold off the 20-year-old, riding i his first ever premier-class race, by 0.2s at the line!
Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Gresini Honda's Alvaro Bautista, Dovizioso and team-mate Nicky Hayden, then Pramac Ducati riders Andrea Iannone and Ben Spies completed the top ten.
Bradl crashed shortly after being overtaken by Rossi, with Crutchlow's rookie Tech 3 Yamaha team-mate Bradley Smith the other manufacturer rider to hit the deck.
Aleix Espargaro continued to hold the privateer advantage and duly won the battle for top CRT honours with eleventh place and a comfortable advantage over Aspar Aprilia team-mate Randy de Puniet.
Avinitia Blusens team-mates Hector Barbera (13th) and Hiroshi Aoyama (15th) sandwiched PBM's Yonny Hernandez for the final points positions. Claudio Corti (Forward), Michael Lavertty (PBM) and Lukas Pesek (Ioda) were the other riders to reach the cheqered flag.
All 24 riders picked the softer rear tyre and all but two - Bautista and Pesek - chose the harder front option.
Round two will see MotoGP hold its inaugural event at the Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Texas on April 19-21.
Qatar Grand Prix:
1. Jorge Lorenzo
2. Valentino Rossi
3. Marc Marquez
4. Dani Pedrosa
5. Cal Crutchlow
6. Alvaro Bautista
7. Andrea Dovizioso
8. Nicky Hayden
9. Andrea Iannone
10. Ben Spies
11. Aleix Espargaro
12. Randy De Puniet
13. Hector Barbera
14. Yonny Hernandez
15. Hiroshi Aoyama
16. Claudio Corti
17. Michael Laverty
18. Lukas Pesek