Somehow the Brazilian missed the Japanese, but it was so close he immediately checked back to be see if he he'd hit him. The view that greeted him of Aoki scampering away would no doubt have been of great relief.
Aoki's exit marked the end of Proton's day, with McWilliams having crashed out of 17th two laps earlier.
Attention now turned to the four-way fight for fourth between Haga, Checa, Jacque Edwards and Capirossi. Having been as quick as anyone for most of the race, Haga was now starting to find himself on the receiving end of pressure from Checa – and with two laps to go the Fortuna Yamaha rider would find a way past 'Nitro Nori'.
Perhaps eager to retaliate, Haga pushed his three-cylinder a little too hard on the exit of a curve – spitting him over the side and down the road at over 100mph. The Japanese was unhurt, but after throwing away Aprilias best ever MotoGP finish he was naturally more than a little frustrated.
Haga's departure left Checa a safe fourth, while Jacque would face pressure from Capirossi right to the flag.
Up front, Gibernau had simply gone faster and faster as the laps wound down, and crossed the line for his third victory of the year – and Michelin's 300th premier class triumph – standing upright with both hands out as if to ask where everyone had gone.
The answer was they were still led by Biaggi, but 10.1secs behind. Nevertheless, Max was delighted to have beat Rossi by 3.8secs at the flag, after taming his increasingly tail happy Camel Honda.
Checa duly took his second fourth in a row, from Jacque, Capirossi, Edwards and Barros – while Bayliss deprived Hofmann of ninth (inherited when Haga fell) on the very last lap. Nevertheless, the German still beat (of the finishers) four Hondas, a Suzuki, a Yamaha and his team-mates Pitt and McCoy.
Yukio Kagayama had been in the thick of the action in thirteenth (and ahead of Suzuki team-mate Hopkins) when he fell with five laps to go, while Melandri was forced to retire with apparent mechanical problems on the same lap.
Hopkins would bring his GSR-V home in fifteenth for the final world championship point.
Full results to follow...