Oliver Turvey claimed his first GP2 Asia victory by leading home team-mate Davide Valsecchi in an iSport one-two at Yas Marina.
Formula 3 Euro Series champion Jules Bianchi began his GP2 career with third for ART, with the charging Luca Filippi coming through to fourth from the back of the grid for Meritus only to retire on the last lap and hand the place to Arden's Javier Villa.
Poleman Charles Pic (Arden) had a disastrous race, starting when Turvey burst ahead off the line and Valsecchi surged down the inside to claim second at the end of the long back straight.
The top three then settled down in close company, with Bianchi and Villa following them. The latter kickstarted the lead group's early pitstops by coming in for tyres on lap six - and then set a new fastest lap on fresh rubber, prompting the rest of the frontrunners to stop in quick succession.
Turvey was the last of this pack to pit on lap 10, emerging right in front of Valsecchi. The championship leader immediately attacked, going around the outside into the Turn 11/12/13 complex and nosing ahead.
The two iSport cars banged wheels as they turned in and skittered over the run-off, rejoining still first and second but now with Villa, Bianchi and Pic - who had lost ground on the out-laps - right on their tails.
Turvey wasted no time in fighting back, sweeping around the outside of Valsecchi with a brilliant move at the penultimate corner just moments after he had lost the lead. In their wake, Bianchi pulled off an identical pass to take third from Villa.
As the tyres came up to temperature, the frenetic racing calmed down, with Turvey leading Valsecchi, Bianchi, Villa and the flying Filippi. The Meritus driver had made spectacular progress from the back of the grid following his troubled Thursday, but also sent Pic flying across a run-off area and down the order with an aggressive move near half-distance.
Although Valsecchi remained on Turvey's tail, the Briton could not be parted from the lead again - even when the safety car was called to retrieve Alberto Valerio's stalled Coloni car in the closing stages.
Turvey ultimately beat Valsecchi across the line by 0.6s, with Bianchi close behind and Villa promoted to fourth and DPR's Giacomo Ricci to fifth when Filippi's car ground to a halt with a lap to go.
Alexander Rossi - who also had to start at the back - provided some consolation for Meritus by surging through to sixth. He looked set for eighth and race two pole for a while, until Addax's Giedo van der Garde crashed out of seventh place.
That accident handed eighth to Marcus Ericsson, but DPR driver Michael Herck's bid to pass the Super Nova driver left Ericsson with broken suspension, so it was Ocean's Max Chilton who found himself scoring the final point and picking up Saturday pole once Filippi's late retirement elevated the remaining finishers.
Christian Vietoris - a winner in the previous event at Yas Marina three months ago - had to retire following a tangle with Trident's Plamen Kralev as he tried to pass the backmarker after his pitstop. Vietoris' DAMS team-mate Edoardo Piscopo's race was even shorter as he was involved in one of several opening lap incidents.
ART's Sam Bird was the other main lap one casualty, being spun to the back and then having contact with Herck and a solo spin before retiring.
Another frontrunner out of luck was Sergio Perez (Addax), who ran sixth until stalling in the pits and then having to make an additional stop.
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Oliver Turvey iSport 1h04m55.310s
2. Davide Valsecchi iSport + 0.618s
3. Jules Bianchi ART + 2.589s
4. Javier Villa Arden + 7.372s
5. Giacomo Ricci DPR + 10.559s
6. Alexander Rossi Meritus + 13.718s
7. Michael Herck DPR + 19.800s
8. Max Chilton Ocean + 24.395s
9. Sergio Perez Addax + 26.285s
10. Josef Kral Super Nova + 27.457s
11. Charles Pic Arden + 33.726s
12. Will Bratt Coloni + 34.300s
13. Vladimir Arabadzhiev Rapax + 1m05.390s
14. Luca Filippi Meritus + 1 lap/DNF
15. Alberto Valerio Coloni + 1 lap
16. Plamen Kralev Trident + 1 lap
17. Marcus Ericsson Super Nova + 3 laps/DNF
Fabio Leimer Ocean 27 laps
Giedo van der Garde Addax 25 laps
Daniel Zampieri Rapax 23 laps
Dani Clos Trident 9 laps
Christian Vietoris DAMS 7 laps
Sam Bird ART 4 laps
Edoardo Piscopo DAMS 0 laps