Dani Pedrosa stormed to a fourth win in the last five MotoGP races in Japan this afternoon to keep the pressure on world championship rival Jorge Lorenzo.
But there was bitter disappointment for British rider Cal Crutchlow, who had to retire on the last lap while he was locked in a thrilling battle with Gresini Honda rival Alvaro Bautista for third place.
The 24-lap race was once again dominated by Spanish duo Pedrosa and Lorenzo.
The factory Yamaha rider set the pace from pole position for the opening 12 laps but once Pedrosa pounced, his fifth win of the campaign never looked in serious doubt.
He took the chequered flag by a commanding 4.275s to cut Lorenzo’s lead in the championship to 28-points with three races remaining.
Lorenzo though remains a firm favourite to win his second MotoGP world title after he maintained his outstanding record of never finishing lower than second in 2012.
Repsol Honda rider Pedrosa and Lorenzo were left to scrap it out at the front on their own after Ben Spies made an early error while he was running in third.
The Texan had managed to fight his way by Crutchlow on the run to the first corner but he wasn’t in third place for much longer.
The 2009 World Superbike champion ran straight on at the first turn on the second lap and crashed out after making light contact with a trackside advertising board. He escaped unhurt.
That mistake put Crutchlow into third place and he was able to edge away from a chasing group of four that included reigning world champion Casey Stoner, Bautista, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate Andrea Dovizioso and Stefan Bradl.
Crutchlow’s advantage over Bautista at one stage was close to 1.5s, but the Spaniard started reeling off fast and consistent laps and he seized third on lap 20.
Crutchlow did briefly snatch third back on lap 22 but Bautista, who only signed a new one-year deal with Fausto Gresini’s Honda squad yesterday (Saturday), hit back and he started the last lap with a slender 0.359s lead.
But just as Crutchlow tried to size up a last lap challenge for his second premier class podium, his YZR-M1 ground to a halt and he was forced to retire from fourth.
Crutchlow’s late demise promoted Dovizioso into fourth after the Italian passed Stoner on lap 17.
Aussie Stoner rode to a heroic fifth on his injury comeback but he was losing almost a second a lap and he finished 20.5s adrift of his teammate Pedrosa.
Valentino Rossi was a lonely seventh and never a serious podium contender and he finished 26 seconds off the victory.
James Ellison finished 14th to score his fifth successive points-scoring result.