Casey Stoner secured his second straight MotoGP victory by defeating Andrea Dovizioso in the Japanese Grand Prix.
Valentino Rossi beat his Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo to the final podium position after a ferocious late battle, but the Spaniard still moved closer to the title, extending his lead over the injured Dani Pedrosa to 69 points.
Polesitter Dovizioso made the best start and looked like he would maintain the lead, but Stoner managed to outbrake him at the first corner and slip ahead.
In his most competitive performance of the year, Dovizioso clung to Stoner's tail, the two matching each other's lap times for the majority of the race.
It was only with seven laps to go that Stoner finally got his lead up to more than one second, and that was enough to give him some breathing space as he crossed the line to win by 3.8 seconds.
The Yamahas produced some spectacular racing for the final podium position. Lorenzo got ahead of Rossi at the start, but the world champion sliced past his team-mate at the hairpin on lap six.
Rossi could not pull away though, and on lap 17 Lorenzo dived down the inside at Turn 5, only to run wide and hand the place back.
Lorenzo tried ever harder in the closing stages, attacking Rossi repeatedly and twice making it in front on the final two laps, only for the Italian to immediately retaliate and reclaim third each time - the pair even making firm contact at one stage. Rossi finally beat Lorenzo to the flag by half a second.
The Spaniard will now have to wait and see when his last remaining title rival Pedrosa is fit to return following surgery on his broken collarbone yesterday. If the Honda rider is not fit to try and ride at Sepang next weekend, then Lorenzo just needs 10th place in Malaysia to become world champion regardless of what Pedrosa does.
Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards delivered his best performance of 2010 so far and finished fifth, winning a long-battle with Gresini Honda rider Marco Simoncelli.
Suzuki's Loris Capirossi had run with them until retiring with electrical problems in the closing stages, although his team-mate Alvaro Bautista was elevated to seventh in his place.
Ben Spies (Tech 3) and Nicky Hayden (Ducati) went off together at Turn 5 on the second lap, falling to the tail of the field. Spies managed the more effective recovery, getting back to eighth ahead of slow-starter and gravel visitor Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) and local favourite Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda).
Hayden had to settle for 12th, behind Gresini's Marco Melandri, who fell out of the top 10 with a late trip through the gravel.
Pos Rider Team Time/Gap 1. Casey Stoner Ducati 43m12.266s 2. Andrea Dovizioso Honda + 3.868s 3. Valentino Rossi Yamaha + 5.707s 4. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha + 6.221s 5. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha + 27.092s 6. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda + 30.021s 7. Alvaro Bautista Suzuki + 31.826s 8. Ben Spies Tech 3 Yamaha + 35.572s 9. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda + 47.564s 10. Hiroshi Aoyama Interwetten Honda + 49.598s 11. Marco Melandri Gresini Honda + 49.999s 12. Nicky Hayden Ducati + 50.703s 13. Hector Barbera Aspar Ducati + 51.422s 14. Aleix Espargaro Pramac Ducati + 52.843s 15. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati + 1m14.668s Retirements: Loris Capirossi Suzuki 21 laps