Meanwhile, with the top four beginning to break away, Tamada crucially found a way past Capirossi under braking and was quickly able to catch the all-Honda battle at the front.
Despite taking the lead, Biaggi wasn't able to take advantage of having Gibernau between himself and Rossi, and the Roman would soon feel the heat when on lap four the #46 squeezed past Sete and began to put the Camel Pramac Pons rider under severe pressure.
Over the following circulations, the all-Italian top two began to pull a small gap over the sick Gibernau, but it was fifth placed Tamada who was the fastest man on track – the Japanese now desperate to get past Hayden.
Then a shock that would have even the Japanese fans on their feet: Rossi out-braked himself into the tight right-hand turn one on lap seven and was forced to run through the gravel before rejoining the circuit – dropping the world champ back to ninth (behind Melandri) and 8.6secs behind race leader Biaggi. The expressionless faces of the watching HRC bosses in the Repsol pits said it all - 'and he wants how many millions for next year...'
While Rossi planned his revenge, and he still had 16 laps to make what would be a fantastic comeback ride, Tamada was keeping the home fans on edge – slicing past Hayden for third on lap eighth, as he set his sights on Gibernau 0.7secs ahead, with Biaggi a further 1.3secs clear.
However, Rossi was past Melandri, Capirossi and Ukawa for sixth by lap nine, and then took Barros one lap later, leaving the Italian with a 4secs gap to close to fourth placed Hayden. Meanwhile, Tamada took Gibernau – briefly – at the same time, only for the determined Catalan to fight straight back... allowing Biaggi to stretch ever further away by a few tenths each lap.
Tamada, watched by the still present Hayden, continued his onslaught of the Telefonica rider up to - and beyond - the halfway point, but main news was that by lap 13 (of 24) Rossi was within 2.4secs of Hayden – and 6secs of Biaggi, could he do it...?
The 24-year-old Superstar caught the thrilling three-way fight for second by lap 16 – but with Biaggi 3.5secs clear he couldn't afford to be polite in working his way through the trio – and was just millimetres from torpeding Hayden as he outbraked himself yet again.
The #46 kept on the track this time, while the watching fans gasped, and at last found himself inheriting a bit of luck soon after when he followed Hayden past Tamada, after the Japanese (looking down on power to his rivals) made yet another desperate bid for second.
Rossi then took Hayden a lap later, with Gibernau lasting just a few more turns before losing second to the angry Italian. That put Rossi with a 5secs gap between himself and arch rival Biaggi - with just 5 laps to go.