Jason Plato won the first British Touring Car race of 2013 at Brands Hatch despite being punted off at the last corner.
Plato's works MG was blocked at the start by a slow-starting Gordon Shedden's Honda, allowing poleman Andrew Jordan (Eurotech Honda) to briefly escape.
Shedden then had a big slide at Paddock, possibly after a slight nudge from Plato, dropping the Civic to ninth.
That helped a fast-starting Rob Austin, one of only four runners to start on the new soft tyre, to jump to second. He then attacked Jordan at Clearways to put the Audi into the lead before the end of the opening lap.
Plato followed him through and tracked Austin until the Audi's soft tyres started to go off.
The MG made it by around half-distance, but Plato's 75th BTCC victory was not yet secure.
Jordan jumped Austin at Clearways a few laps later and started closing on the MG.
He was close enough to consider a move at Clearways on the final lap, but hit the rear of the MG as he made his bid.
Both cars went off into the gravel, but such was the gap they had opened up over Austin that they were able to recover to finish first and second in their original order.
Behind Austin, Plato's team-mate Sam Tordoff took a good fourth, helped by Honda's woes.
Apart from Shedden's troubled opening lap, Neal suffered from a severe tyre rub. His pace suffered and Tordoff eventually made his move at Clearways, contact helping him by the Honda.
Shedden tried to follow, but Neal closed the door, almost forcing his team-mate into the pitwall.
Both Hondas subsequently pitted, putting them a lap down and out of the points. Shedden unlapped himself as Plato and Jordan rescued themselves from the gravel.
There were some star charges from the back. Frank Wrathall went from the last row to sixth in his Dynojet Toyota Avensis, while 2009 champion Colin Turkington - running on the soft tyre - came home eighth after starting 25th in the only one of WSR's new BMWs to finish.
Dan Welch also took 11th from row 12, helped by the late retirement of Mat Jackson's Motorbase Ford Focus.
Top S2000 qualifier Lea Wood led the class in the early part of the race, but his Vauxhall Vectra appeared to struggle with its tyres in the closing stages. That allowed BTCC returnee James Kaye to take Jack Sears Trophy honours in AmD's VW Golf.
Race 1 - 27 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jason Plato MG 24m08.734s 2. Andrew Jordan Eurotech Honda + 2.168s 3. Rob Austin Austin Audi + 6.130s 4. Sam Tordoff MG + 7.789s 5. Jeff Smith Eurotech Honda + 8.245s 6. Frank Wrathall Dynojet Toyota + 13.622s 7. Adam Morgan Ciceley Toyota + 16.948s 8. Colin Turkington WSR BMW + 18.923s 9. Aron Smith Motorbase Ford + 20.253s 10. Ollie Jackson Speedworks Toyota + 22.114s 11. Daniel Welch Welch Proton + 23.129s 12. Will Bratt Austin Audi + 23.501s 13. Jack Goff HARD Vauxhall + 27.349s 14. Tom Onslow-Cole HARD VW + 27.999s 15. James Kaye AmD VW* + 29.817s 16. Lea Wood Wood Vauxhall* + 31.366s 17. Liam Griffin Motorbase Ford* + 37.067s 18. David Nye Welch Ford* + 44.911s 19. Gordon Shedden Honda + 45.441s 20. Mat Jackson Motorbase Ford + 1 lap 21. Matt Neal Honda + 1 lap 22. Warren Scott BMR SEAT* + 1 lap Retirements: Nick Foster WSR BMW 4 laps Rob Collard WSR BMW 3 laps Dave Newsham Speedworks Toyota 3 laps James Cole HARD Vauxhall 1 lap Joe Girling Finesse Chevrolet* 0 laps * S2000