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Marc Marquez took a huge step towards retaining the MotoGP World Championship with a dazzling victory at Phillip Island in Australia.

The Repsol Honda rider claimed all 25 points as chief title rival Andrea Dovizioso struggled to 13th place on the Ducati, picking up only three points after the Italian had closed the deficit to Marquez following his victory at Motegi.

Reigning champion Marquez has now increased his advantage to 33 points with only two rounds to go as he closes in on his fourth premier class crown.

In a breathless race, Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi got the better of Johann Zarco on the satellite machine to seal the runner-up spot, with Maverick Vinales out-running Zarco on the blast to the line on the final lap to snatch third.

Britain’s Cal Crutchlow finished fifth on the LCR Honda ahead of Ecstar Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone, with home hero Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) taking seventh on his return from injury.

No quarter was given in a fiercely contested race as the leading riders roughed each other up and there was contact between Marquez, Rossi and Zarco as they disputed the lead.

Aussie Miller sensationally led his home MotoGP race after the first lap with Marquez giving chase, followed by Vinales, Rossi, Iannone and Pol Espargaro on the KTM.

Dovizioso made a big mistake at turn 1 on the second lap and ran wide, dropping down the order to 20th position on the GP17 as the Italian left himself with a mountain to climb.

With Miller leading Vinales on lap three, Zarco collided with Marquez at the hairpin as he attempted to make a pass up the inside for third. Marquez dropped to fourth as a result as Rossi took full advantage, while Zarco slipped back to sixth behind Aleix Espargaro on the Gresini Aprilia.

Miller had opened a gap of 0.6 seconds out front after five laps but the chasing pack were closing in as Rossi moved up to second ahead of Vinales, Marquez, Zarco, Espargaro, Crutchlow and Iannone.

Rossi took the lead down the main straight at the start of lap six, with Vinales also drafting past Miller before passing Rossi at turn 2 to hit the front.

It was all change again as Rossi re-took the lead on the brakes at the hairpin, while Marquez was now into third ahead of Miller, Zarco, Espargaro, Crutchlow and Iannone.

Marquez and Zarco both passed Vinales on lap seven as Rossi set the pace, while Espargaro lost sixth place after a big spill at the fast turn 1 on the following lap.

Rossi went wide at the hairpin allowing Zarco and Marquez past as he slipped to third. Miller also found a way past Rossi as a five-way battle developed, with Vinales and Iannone clinging on ahead of Crutchlow.

However, Rossi showed his fighting spirit as he regrouped and hit back to lead again, first passing Marquez before diving under Zarco on the brakes at turn 4.

Marquez and Zarco traded places in second as Rossi tried in vain to make a break, with Vinales holding fourth from Miller, Iannone and Crutchlow.

With 11 laps to go, Zarco was back in the lead after passing Rossi at the hairpin, while Marquez lost two places as Vinales and Iannone passed the Honda rider on the same lap.

In another change at the front, Vinales put a pass on Rossi to lead with nine laps remaining. Marquez was now in a hurry and there was contact between the Honda rider and Rossi as he made a pass at turn 2 on the inside, forcing Rossi wide.

Marquez made a decisive move at the hairpin on Vinales and from there, he began to open a cushion as Vinales, Rossi and Zarco tripped each other up. Iannone also joined the battle for second place before eventually dropping off the pace into the clutches of Crutchlow.

With two laps remaining, Rossi made contact with Zarco at the hairpin and managed to snatch second place as they accelerated away. From there, the nine-time world champion was able to defend second place from the Frenchman, who tried all he could to find a way past.

Vinales closed right in on the final lap and drafted past Zarco to snatch third on the blast to the line as Marquez wrapped up victory by 1.8 seconds over Rossi.

Crutchlow got the better of Iannone for fifth, with Miller and Alex Rins the top eight. KTM pair Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith completed the top ten.

Scott Redding on the Pramac Ducati and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa both slipstreamed past Dovizioso on the run to the finishing line on the final lap, shunting the factory Ducati rider back to 13th. Jorge Lorenzo sealed the final championship point in 15th behind Aspar’s Karel Abraham.

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