Back up front and, by the end of lap 1 of 30, Rossi had clawed back a further two positions - placing him eighth, behind Melandri, Hayden, Gibernau, Biaggi, Checa, Capirossi and Barros - then wasted no time in outbraking the Brazilian into turn one of lap 2.
The move was good, but a later mistake allowed the Camel Honda veteran back past and it would take a further lap for The Doctor to replicate the turn one move, this time for keeps.
However, the race pattern was already starting to form with Melandri, Hayden and Gibernau starting to edge away from fourth placed Biaggi - who now had the likes of Checa, Capirossi and Rossi queuing up behind him.
But all would be promoted a position on lap four when Gibernau, as in so many recent races, suddenly sat up and ran wide through a corner. This time there was no rider error involved - his factory spec RCV instead spewing white smoke as it suffered a terminal engine failure.
The 'curse' had struck yet again and all Gibernau could do was park the bike, stare at it with his arms crossed and then crouch with his head in his hands as he wondered, once again, what might have been.
For their part, the local marshals consoling Sete encouraged the packed grandstands to make their support for the home hero clear, something the crowd seemed only to happy to do.
Back on track and Gibernau's demise meant that Melandri and Hayden were now several vital seconds clear of the convoy fighting for what was now third - but Rossi would make the position his own by lap 6, having quickly cut past Capirossi, Biaggi and then Checa within two laps.
That gave a top three compromising of exactly the same riders as in Turkey two weeks ago - a trio Rossi himself had called the future of MotoGP - but at present Rossi was playing only a supporting role and now needed to reel in the leaders.
The #46's early pace and progress suggested he would have no problems doing so, and there were certainly more than enough laps remaining, but when - after two further laps - Rossi had failed to make an impact on the top two, the first warning signs started to flash... especially as he had also been re-caught by Checa.
By the halfway point Rossi's chances had deteriorated further, with Melandri and Hayden still just 0.2secs apart up front - but an enlarged six-second gap now separated Hayden from Rossi, who in turn still had Checa hanging onto his silencer. A 3.5secs gap then separated Checa from his injured Ducati Marlboro team-mate Capirossi, now leading the fight for fifth.