Eugene Laverty has put himself right back into the World Supersport title fight with victory at the Nurburgring, but only after he was forced to fend off an outstanding performance by Gino Rea.
With Laverty needing victories in each of the final three races – and for series leader Kenan Sofuoglu to finish lower than second -, the Irishman got a helping hand from an unlikely source as Rea put himself between the title rivals.
Seemingly buoyed by his first Supersport podium at Silverstone, Rea got a good start to slot in behind pole sitter Laverty, but any expectations that the privateer rider would fade into the grasp of Sofuoglu proved unfounded as he never dropped more than half a second behind the Irishman.
Indeed, with Sofuoglu unable to maintain the pace of the leaders, even a series of fastest laps by Laverty couldn't shake off the youngster as he shadowed the more experienced racer lap after lap.
It would all culminate in a thrilling final lap as Rea made his presence known with a dive down the inside at turn one, the pair making light contact side-by-side as they entered the braking zone.
Despite being on the outside, Laverty was braver and emerged out front, but Rea collected himself to apply the pressure right to the final corner. Laverty had it covered though, crossing line a mere 0.058secs up on Rea.
An important result for Laverty, Rea's run to second place ahead of Sofuoglu brings the gap in the title race down to nine points, meaning Laverty and Sofuoglu must go head-to-head for victory over the final two rounds.
UPDATE: Gino Rea was later excluded for being in breach of technical regulations, lifting Sofuoglu up to second place to put his advantage at 13 points with three races remaining.
Further back, Broc Parkes signalled his return with a confident ride to what would become third place after relieving fellow Kawasaki rider Fabien Foret of the position late on. Nonetheless, fourth signals Foret's best finish of the season.
Almost half a minute behind the leaders, Chaz Davies finished ahead of David Salom to be classified as the top Triumph rider, the Briton putting in a fine performance form 16th on the grid. Massimo Roccoli, Michele Pirro, Roberto Tamburini and Danilo Dell'Omo completed the top ten.
Like the Superbike race, it was an afternoon of attrition for the Supersport runners with every finisher making the points, Katsuaki Fujiwara, Matthieu Lagrive, Ronan Quarmby and Mark Aitchison all crashing out.