British rider Bradley Smith was left to rue a costly mistake on a dramatic last lap as he saw his hopes of a first 125GP podium in 2010 dashed in Le Mans.
Smith rode a brilliant race to lead a five-strong pack dicing for third spot when he came under intense pressure from Derbi rider Marc Marquez on the final lap.
Desperate to secure his first top three since the final race of 2009 in Valencia, Smith nearly high-sided his Aspar Aprilia machine exiting the Musee left-hander.
That promoted a hard charging Marquez to third. Smith then launched one final raid just two corners from the end of the 26-lap race. He ran up the inside of Marquez and nearly made contact with the Spaniard.
Both ran wide but Marquez was able to keep his Derbi in front of Smith. The 19-year-old then cruelly had fourth place snatched away from him at the final corner when Efren Vazquez pounced to relegate the Oxfordshire rider down to fifth.
It was scant reward for Smith who had made a brilliant start from fifth place on the grid and immediately slotted himself into third place on the opening lap.
He held that position for most of the race, twice briefly surrendering to third to Vazquez, before he lost out in the late drama.
Smith’s pace was certainly no match for dominant Spanish duo Pol Espargaro and Nicolas Terol at the front.
The pair made an instant break from the chasing pack and by the end of lap three had stretched their lead to nearly 2.5s over Smith.
Championship leader Terol was happy to lead the race until Espargaro passed him on lap 16.
Espargaro, who triumphed at the recent Spanish GP in Jerez, looked like he was going to make a crucial break as he immediately opened up a gap of 0.640s.
But he was immediately pegged back by Terol, who had claimed his first ever pole position yesterday. Terol regained the lead on lap 17 but was unable to keep Espargaro at bay for long as he surrendered the lead again on lap 19.
Once again Espargaro looked to be in control as opened up a lead of nearly half-a-second as the race reached a thrilling climax.
Terol though made a crucial mistake on the penultimate lap to dent his hopes of a second victory of the campaign.
He passed Espargaro on the brakes at the Chemin aux Boeufs corner but outbraked himself and ran wide. Espargaro retaliated immediately and eventually won by 0.957s.
His second successive victory means he closed the gap on Terol at the top of the rankings to just two points.
Behind Smith in sixth position was Sandro Cortese, who could never seriously threaten the battle for the final rostrum place.
British teenager Danny Webb produced a brilliant fightback after a shocking start cost him dearly.
The Kent rider plummeted from eighth on the grid to 20th on the first lap but came back brilliantly to finish ninth in his 50th Grand Prix appearance.
It took Webb only 12 laps to break into the top ten.
1 Pol ESPARGARO SPA Tuenti Racing Derbi 41'52.280
2 Nicolas TEROL SPA Bancaja Aspar Team Aprilia +0.957
3 Marc MARQUEZ SPA Red Bull Ajo Motorsport Derbi +4.428
4 Efren VAZQUEZ SPA Tuenti Racing Derbi +4.736
5 Bradley SMITH GBR Bancaja Aspar Team Aprilia +5.143
6 Sandro CORTESE GER Avant Mitsubishi Ajo Derbi +5.847
7 Esteve RABAT SPA Blusens-STX Aprilia +11.047
8 Tomoyoshi KOYAMA JPN Racing Team Germany Aprilia +11.165
9 Danny WEBB GBR Andalucia Cajasol Aprilia +37.808
10 Luis SALOM SPA Stipa-Molenaar Racing GP Aprilia +39.585
11 Johann ZARCO FRA WTR San Marino Team Aprilia +40.519
12 Jasper IWEMA NED CBC Corse Aprilia +40.817
13 Jonas FOLGER GER Ongetta Team Aprilia +42.149
14 Randy KRUMMENACHER SWI Stipa-Molenaar Racing GP Aprilia +44.741
15 Adrian MARTIN SPA Aeroport de Castello - Ajo Aprilia +46.320
16 Alexis MASBOU FRA Ongetta Team Aprilia +46.503
17 Alberto MONCAYO SPA Andalucia Cajasol Aprilia +46.979
18 Marcel SCHROTTER GER Interwetten Honda 125 Honda +59.626
19 Jakub KORNFEIL CZE Racing Team Germany Aprilia +59.770
20 Sturla FAGERHAUG NOR AirAsia - Sepang Int. Circuit Aprilia +1'04.405
21 Louis ROSSI FRA CBC Corse Aprilia +1'05.731
22 Michael VAN DER MARK NED Lambretta Reparto Corse Lambretta +1'28.928
23 Kevin SZALAI FRA Equipe de France Vitesse Espoir Honda +1'47.143