Max Biaggi has won his third World Superbike race of the season after soaking up intense pressure from James Toseland, Cal Crutchlow and Leon Haslam from start-to-finish at Monza.

Biaggi led for almost race's entirety, but was never able to pull out an advantage of more than a second over his closest rivals. Nonetheless, despite a might last lap effort from Toseland, he was unable to nose ahead of the Aprilia, the top three covered by less than three tenths of a second at the chequered flag.

Toseland retained second, despite his cautious attempt at passing Biaggi on the final corner almost costing him a position to Crutchlow, the Yamaha pair split by just four hundredths on the line.

With Biaggi anticipated as the man to beat following his star turn during Superpole and his headline-grabbing top speeds, attention was fixed firmly on him as the race got underway.

Getting his traditionally quick start on the compact RSV-4 to lead into the revised first corner chicane, there was thankfully no repeat of last year's melee as all 24 riders navigated the turn successfully.

There were winners and losers the opening bends though, particularly Troy Corser, who catapulted up to third position, behind Biaggi and Haslam, from 12th on the grid, and Jonathan Rea, who was down to 11th by the end of the opening lap. Behind Corser, Michel Fabrizio, Crutchlow, Toseland and Ruben Xaus made up positions fourth to seventh following lap one.

Determined not to let Biaggi sprint away as feared, particularly in a straight-line, Haslam launched a immediate assault on the Aprilia, tucking in the slipstream at the start of lap four to out-brake him into Prima Variante and snatch the lead.

It was a brief advantage, however, Biaggi settling behind the Suzuki for two laps before powering past him across the start-finish straight before even reaching the corner. It was a lead he wouldn't lose again.

Just behind, further action had seen Corser shuffled out of position, with Crutchlow and Toseland now occupying third and fourth after both passing the Australian on lap three, while a recovering Rea was on a charge up to fifth having set the fastest lap in the process.

Indeed, as the top five began to bunch together, it was the feisty looking Ten Kate Honda man who looked most likely to challenge Biaggi, but while he was able to dispose of both Yamahas in a fine slipstream pass down the back straight into third, his necessary outside line around Parabolica would prove his undoing as the front-end folded beneath him.

Despite the severity of the crash, which would see Rea's heavily damaged bike launched over the tyre barriers - much to his initial confusion when he couldn't find where it had landed -, the Northern Irishman was unhurt.

With the leading group down to three for the time being - after Crutchlow ventured across the chicane escape road when he got tangled up in the braking area for turn one with Haslam -, the action began to calm down, Biaggi ahead of Toseland and Haslam.

Haslam would fight back though, passing Toseland into Prima Variante on lap 13 for second. However, when the Suzuki rider ran wide entering the Roggia chicane, Toseland struck back immediately, nerving his rival onto the kerbs and back down to fourth behind Crutchlow also.

From here, it was Crutchlow's turn to make a play for victory, passing Toseland for second on lap 14, but with the former champion evidently stronger on the brakes into T1, it was a position he couldn't hold for long.

The sparring had, however, allowed Biaggi some breathing space and with the laps beginning to wind down, Toseland and Crutchlow set about reeling the Aprilia in, an objective they fulfilled just in time for the final lap.

However, having been inch perfect all race long, Biaggi provided one last faultless lap to resist anything Toseland could throw at him. Indeed, save for a brief look down the inside of the final Parabolica bend, Biaggi would prove comfortable across the line as he completed a seventh career WSBK win on home soil for himself, his team and his sponsor.

Toseland maintained second, despite Crutchlow coming close to snatching it from the line, while Haslam settled for fourth having faded slightly in the sprint to the finish.

Crucially, however, the 12 point difference between first and fourth means Biaggi has slashed Haslam's advantage in the overall standings to eight points. Additionally, Toseland is now up to fourth, just four points adrift of Rea.

Behind the top four, Leon Camier steadily worked his way up the order for another notable result in fifth, the Briton finishing four seconds adrift of the leaders having started a lowly 13th.

With both Fabrizio and Corser fading as the race continued, it allowed Xaus to play himself back into contention, the Spaniard snatching sixth at the line from Fabrizio to record his best finish yet for the BMW team.

There was also joy for Tom Sykes, who secured a long awaited first top ten finish for Kawasaki in ninth, the Briton enduring a lonely race, but one that also signals the team's best result in almost twelve months.

Sylvain Guintoli completed the top ten after passing Noriyuki Haga on the final lap, the Japanese rider scoring points but getting nowhere near close to where he was expected to be prior to the start of the year.

Max Neukirchner spared some blushes by edging the Althea Ducatis in 12th, Shane Byrne and Carlos Checa seemingly proving their claims that the 1198 is severely handicapped in a straight-line as they struggled for the first time this season. Jakub Smrz rounded out the points positions on the PATA B&G Ducati.

Elsewhere, Daisaku Sakai's WSBK baptism of fire continued as he suffered a nasty accident at Ascari, the Japanese rider landing heavily on a shoulder already injured in a fall earlier in the weekend.