Valentino Rossi rode arguable the race of his life in Brno today, taking revenge on Sete Gibernau by overtaking the Catalan on the final lap - after 22-laps of non-stop MotoGP heaven - and clinging on by just 0.04secs as the pair raced side-by-side to the chequered flag.
But the race was far from a two rider affair with the Ducati's of Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi both in contention under the closing stages.
Qualifying had seen Rossi match Max Biaggi's Friday battle cry by setting a new pole position record to puts him at the front of the MotoGP grid.
Biaggi, in desperate need of a victory as he looks to cut back a deficit of 57 points to Rossi, started the session with the psychological edge as he defended provisional pole but crashed just two minutes into the session and was forced to qualify on his reserve machine.
However, his time stood firm at the top of the standings until the final twelve minutes of the session, when Sete Gibernau set a fast lap to ignite an exciting finale. Moments later Nicky Hayden burst under the two minute mark for the first time to move up to second spot, only to be outdone by Biaggi and Checa with a minute remaining.
By this time Rossi was already mounting his late attack and the World Champion scorched to a time of 1min 58.708secs with just seconds left on the clock. Biaggi and Capirossi, whose modified Ducati ground to half earlier in the session, tried to react as the chequered flag fell, but both faltered and were forced to settle for third and fourth places respectively behind Gibernau in second.
Checa's chain broke halfway through the session but he returned to seal the front slot on the second row as Hayden was relegated to seventh by Troy Bayliss. The Australian's last gasp effort shaved almost two seconds off his provisional qualifying time and pushed Tohru Ukawa out to eighth.
Meanwhile, Shinya Nakano spent the afternoon in a local hospital after a huge crash in morning free practice left him with concussion and a swollen eye, but the Japanese rider miraculously escaped serious injury and would start today's race from fourteenth.
With nerves on a knife-edge, it was Bayliss who seized the early advantage as 24 (WCM's David de Gea didn't take the start due to a lack of spares) screaming MotoGP machines hurtled into the long 180-degree turn one to start the much anticipated 22-lap main event, with Rossi, Gibernau, Biaggi, Capirossi, Checa, Hayden and Barros following the Ducati star.