However, the former 125cc world champion's hopes would suffer a huge blow when he too ran wide, his MS liveried Aprilia creeping out to the grass and collapsing at an embarrassingly low speed. 'The Pog' rejoined, but back in tenth, behind Battaini.
8 laps to go and another race contender would fall, this time Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli, who lost the front of his Campetella Aprilia while fourth and was sent tumbling into the German gravel – and retirement.
With new fourth placed man Porto now starting to fade, the closing stages saw the race reduced to a three-way fight between Rolfo, de Puniet and Nieto.
The top two switched places several times and de Puniet looked poised for a last lap attack - when Nieto came from nowhere and dived inside the LCR rider into turn one, shocking the Frenchman who ran wide in the process.
Nieto then turned his attention to Rolfo and with the Italian's rear wheel leaving black lines out of nearly every turn, the Spaniard looked more than capable of denying the 23-year-old of his first GP victory.
However, having been so close so many times before - not least at the same circuit one year ago - Rolfo wasn't letting this chance slip through his grasp and took defensive lines into each of the remaining corners on his way to a universally popular win.
Behind the top three, pole sitter Porto took a safe fourth, ahead of Battaini, West and Elias.
With Poggiali finishing just eighth, his point lead has now shrunk to just three over Nieto with Rolfo a mere seven points from the top.
Full results to follow...
3. de Puniet