Marco Melandri has taken a stunning first World Superbike Championship victory in only his third race after hunting down and passing Jakub Smrz in the closing stages at Donington Park.
The Italian put in an aggressive performance as he fought his way up the field, the Yamaha man defying his fairly lowly ninth position on the grid to systematically claw his way up the order.
However, it still took a late charge to deny Jakub Smrz, the Czech rider getting to within a lap of winning his first World Superbike race after leading for 17 of the 23 laps.
Far from making up ground at the start of the race, Melandri crossed the line still in ninth position at the end of the opening lap.
Instead, it was Leon Haslam that led into the opening bend, followed by Leon Camier, who pushed his way up to second position in the shuffle down the Craner Curves. By the end of the lap, the pair were being chased by Noriyuki Haga, Smrz, Jonathan Rea, Troy Corser, Max Biaggi and Melandri.
Pole sitter Carlos Checa's hopes of maintaining his winning streak were scuppered into the Old Hairpin as a wide entry dropped him down to ninth position. He was then forced to sit up by Biaggi into the last corner, leaving the Spaniard down to 11th by the end of the opening lap.
Up front, Haslam was attempting to stretch away, but was unable to shake Camier and Haga with him, the Japanese rider putting in his most convincing performance yet on the PATA Racing Aprilia.
Indeed, while the BMW rider was confident of leading from the front, it became evident that he did not have the pace of those directly behind. As such, Smrz and Sykes were soon on the back of the lead group and poised to take advantage.
That came on lap five when Haga dived up the inside of Camier into the final corner, the pair making brief contact as Camier leaned in. The momentary loss of balance allowed Smrz to drag his way past down the home straight and into second position, while Camier was able to hold firm in what was now third.