Alain Menu survived a fraught opening sequence of corners at Shanghai to claim his fifth World Touring Car Championship victory of the season.
The Swiss veteran was chased throughout by RML Chevrolet team-mate Rob Huff, but the Briton had little incentive to stage a passing move as title rival Yvan Muller was a first-lap retirement following contact at Turn 2.
"I wasn't pushing at all," said Huff, whose second place moves him ahead of Muller into the championship lead. "After the dramas I have had in the past, as soon as I saw that Yvan was in trouble I stayed off the kerbs and just wanted to finish."
Muller's problems started when he attempted to pass polesitter Menu around the outside of Turn 1. Light contact between the fighting Chevrolet men forced three-time champion Muller wide and allowed the chasing Huff into second.
Into Turn 2, Muller was tapped sideways by Independents' points leader Norbert Michelisz, and then received further knocks from 2012 debutant Colin Turkington and a Bamboo Engineering Cruze.
As Muller headed for the pits nursing a broken right-rear wheel, Michelisz received an arguably harsh drive-through penalty.
Chain reaction incidents broke out further through the pack. Pepe Oriola rode over Turkington's WSR Cruze's wheels, sending Turkington down to 20th while damage to the Tuenti Leon would later force the Spaniard to pit for repairs. Both Bamboo Engineering drivers also sustained race-ending damage.
Double 2012 victor Stefano d'Aste was promoted to third place for Wiechers-Sport, and the Italian maintained a comfortable margin over race two polesitter Tom Coronel and Gabriele Tarquini in the best of the SEATs.
Tom Boardman was another benefactor of the opening lap carnage. The lone Special Tuning SEAT expertly negotiated the early laps to rise from 20th to sixth place.
After a disappointing qualifying effort, Tiago Monteiro also made stunning progress to move from 17th to seventh in only the second race weekend for the factory Honda Civic.
Monteiro was hounded in the closing laps by a charging Turkington, and the Portuguese ex-grand prix driver was just 0.1 seconds ahead of the former British Touring Car champion at the flag.
Huff now leads the drivers' standings on 365 points, 16 ahead of Muller, with Menu third on 337.
Race - 13 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Alain Menu Chevrolet 25m12.369s 2. Rob Huff Chevrolet + 1.500s 3. Stefano d'Aste Wiechers BMW + 11.192s 4. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW + 13.327s 5. Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT + 15.653s 6. Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT + 26.382s 7. Tiago Monteiro Honda + 30.032s 8. Colin Turkington WSR Chevrolet + 30.125s 9. Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW + 31.463s 10. Fredy Barth SUNRED SEAT + 36.426s 11. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW + 40.183s 12. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW + 40.320s 13. Charles Ng Engstler BMW + 44.499s 14. Tom Chilton Arena Ford + 46.076s 15. Hugo Valente SUNRED SEAT + 47.406s 16. Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW + 1m07.550s 17. Kelvin Leong Song Veng Honda + 1m21.551s 18. Eric Kwong Look Fong Chevrolet + 1m25.129s 19. Filipe Souza China Dragon Chevrolet + 1m27.186s 20. Ng Kin Veng China Dragon Chevrolet + 1m37.603s 21. Alex Liu Engstler BMW + 1 lap Retirements: Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT 9 laps Fernando Monje SUNRED SEAT 8 laps James Nash Arena Ford 7 laps Darryl O'Young Bamboo Chevrolet 6 laps Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT 6 laps Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet 4 laps Yvan Muller Chevrolet 1 lap