Another dramatic twist in the Moto2 title chase saw Raul Fernandez crash out while on the verge of snatching the world championship lead from Ajo team-mate Remy Gardner.

Gardner came into the second Misano round with his points advantage slashed to just nine over Fernandez after a mistake in Texas.

Tyre issues meant Gardner made slow progress from 14th in the damp qualifying, while Fernandez cut through the field from ninth to third in the opening laps.

When Fernandez then took the race lead on lap 14 of 25, the rookie looked set for a fourth win in a row and eighth of the season.

Meanwhile, things were going from bad to worse for Gardner, in eighth, as he was handed a long-lap penalty for a clumsy pass that put Somkiat Chantra down and out.

But just 25-seconds after that punishment was announced, Fernandez spectacularly locked the front of his Kalex under braking at the end of the back straight and was hurled across the gravel trap.

Stunned but fortunately uninjured, Fernandez could only watch from the pits as Gardner finished the race in seventh place to take a precious 18-point lead into the final rounds in Portimao and Valencia.

“I want to apologise to the team for the crash. I wanted to win the race and I was not thinking about the championship," Fernandez said. "It was a strange incident, as I was very calm on the bike and I did not make any strange movements.

"I can't quite understand what might have happened, so we will analyse it and make a note of it for the next round. Luckily, we still have two more chances to fight for good results before the end of the season."

The points gained may have been fortunate for Gardner, but he certainly didn't punish Fernandez's mistake fully and seventh place was his joint-worst finish of the season.

“In the end, we were lucky and we have taken some important points. However, we cannot afford to have more rounds like this if we want to fight for the championship," he said.

"We decided on our tyre following the choice made by the rest of the grid, but unfortunately it didn't work out so well for us and I was left behind in the group. In addition, we had an incident with another rider and we had to serve a long lap penalty.

"I'm sorry about what happened. From there I tried to fight back as fast as I could, and finally we finished seventh."

'Focus' was the key word used by team manager Aki Ajo for the remaining rounds of their intrateam title battle.

“Raul had a great start and reached the front with the chance to fight for the win. We are disappointed with what happened. Nevertheless, he has shown great progress throughout the season and this kind of misfortune can happen," Ajo said.

"He has to forget about this round and focus on the next two rounds, to finish the year in the best possible way.

"Remy had a difficult Sunday, beginning from so far back. In addition, he was given a long lap penalty, which didn't help him. All in all, he managed to score some important points and now he has to focus on the remainder of the campaign."

Because Fernandez has already outscored future MotoGP team-mate Gardner by 7 wins to 4, the title will go in the Spaniard's favour if the pair are tied on points.

That means, if Fernandez wins the last two rounds, Gardner needs at least a second and third place to be champion, since a pair of thirds would leave them equal on points.

On the other hand, Fernandez has more to lose if another rider - such as Misano winner Sam Lowes - steps up to dominate one or both of the closing rounds, denying him of the full 25-points per race.