Jimmie Johnson jumped back up to the lead of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with his fourth win of the season and his seventh at Martinsville Speedway.
The victory puts Johnson two points ahead of Penske's Brad Keselowski with just three races to go.
Johnson got maximum points after a gruelling 500 laps. He led more laps than any of his rivals while battling some tough opposition headed by Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer and his Hendrick team-mate Jeff Gordon.
Five-time champion Johnson overtook Keselowski with 14 laps remaining after the former Chase leader elected to stay on the track when the penultimate caution waved with 25 laps to go. Johnson, who led the field at the time, pitted for new left side tyres, a move that most behind him followed.
With more grip at his disposal and in a car often the class of the field on Sunday, Johnson was the first of a number of drivers to dispose of Keselowski's #2 Dodge before the last caution was called for an incident involving Dale Earnhardt Jr and Carl Edwards.
Once the green waved for the final five laps, Johnson held off the charging Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch, who recovered from an early spin to be in contention but could not prevent Johnson from scoring his most valuable win of the year.
"We just had a great race car," said Johnson. "And I think we've also learned our lesson here in the past in not pitting late and that certainly came into play and we made the right decision there.
"I'm so torn with emotion right now with winning here; and I'm so happy to be in the point lead."
Keselowski fell back to sixth - still a good result from 32nd on the grid. With JGR's Denny Hamlin all but out of title contention after succumbing to electrical glitches, a two-horse race is now brewing between Johnson and Keselowski.
Bowyer came out on top from a clash with Gordon in the closing laps and moved up to third in the Chase with his fifth place finish behind Kasey Kahne's Hendrick Chevrolet and the impressive Aric Almirola in the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.
After running among the top 10, Earnhardt's late spin, caused by contact from Edwards, meant he finished as the last car on the lead lap on his return to Cup competition following a two-week absence with concussion.
Results - 500 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 3h23m09.000s 2. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 0.479s 3. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 0.596s 4. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 0.862s 5. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 1.924s 6. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 2.201s 7. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 2.294s 8. Brian Vickers Waltrip Toyota + 2.834s 9. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 3.053s 10. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 3.233s 11. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 3.385s 12. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 3.615s 13. Sam Hornish Jr Penske Dodge + 3.892s 14. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 4.120s 15. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet + 4.122s 16. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 4.270s 17. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 4.545s 18. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 4.771s 19. Landon Cassill BK Toyota + 4.908s 20. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 5.876s 21. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 8.241s 22. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 1 lap 23. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 1 lap 24. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 1 lap 25. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 1 lap 26. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 1 lap 27. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 2 laps 28. AJ Allmendinger Phoenix Chevrolet + 2 laps 29. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford + 5 laps 30. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 6 laps 31. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 8 laps Retirements: Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 473 laps Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 466 laps* Stephen Leicht Circle Sport Chevrolet 253 laps Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 193 laps David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet 185 laps Scott Speed Leavine Ford 116 laps Josh Wise Front Row Ford 85 laps Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 61 laps David Stremme Inception Toyota 46 laps Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 35 laps Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet 22 laps Reed Sorenson Humphrey Smith Toyota 19 laps * Running again at finish