Norbert Michelisz moved closer to claiming the World Touring Car Cup by winning a wild opening race at Sepang, though his main rivals fought their way into the top six.
The Hyundai driver was barely featured on-screen in the race broadcast, but he cruised to a comfortable fifth victory of the season in changeable conditions to move more than a race win's worth of points clear of nearest rival Esteban Guerrieri.
Light rain as the cars headed to the grid gave teams a headache over which tyres to fit, particularly when that intensified, though most, including polesitter Michelisz, opted for a combination of slick front tyres and wet rears to deal with the slippery surface.
Officials decided to start the race behind the safety car, though this was called in at the end of the first lap - with Michelisz deciding to hit racing speed halfway down the back straight.
He was pursued by Aurelien Panis, Guerrieri's Munnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R team-mate Nestor Girolami, and PWR Cupra driver Mikel Azcona to begin with, though Girolami and Azcona soon dropped away after choosing a full-wet tyre selection.
Michelisz duly gapped Panis by two seconds in the opening laps and would end up 2.446 seconds clear of the Comtoyou Cupra driver - who scored his first WTCR podium - at the end of the extended 10-lap race.
Gabriele Tarquini backed up BRC Racing team-mate Michelisz's win by taking third, finishing a distant 7.563s behind Panis, ahead of Guerrieri.
On a dramatic opening lap, Guerrieri fought his way forward from ninth on the grid to seventh thanks to passes on Comtoyou Audi driver Frederic Vervisch and, after a tussle in the third sector, the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce of Ma Qing Hua.
The Argentinian then dived past Augusto Farfus at the first corner at the start of lap three, and past Girolami and Azcona - now struggling for grip - at the Turn 9 hairpin the following lap.
That was the extent of Guerrieri's progress, though the result did limit his loss to Michelisz and also moved him slightly further clear of Yvan Muller, who finished sixth.
Muller made even more impressive progress through the field from his 16th-place starting position, though his progress was thwarted by the KCMG Honda of wildcard driver Joao Paulo de Olivera.
The 2010 Formula Nippon champion advanced from 13th to finish fifth, setting the fastest lap in the process, though his wildcard status means he is ineligible for points.
That means Guerrieri sits 27 points behind Michelisz with two races remaining, with Muller - now the final remaining title contender after his Cyan Racing Lynk & Co team-mate Thed Bjork was eliminated from contention - eight further back.
Though Azcona plummeted out of the points, his team-mate Daniel Haglof finished a fine seventh, ahead of double World Rallycross champion Johan Kristoffersson, who started 17th.
Nicky Catsburg (BRC Racing Hyundai) and WRT Audi driver Jean-Karl Vernay completed the top 10, while Vernay's team-mate Gordon Shedden recorded his first points finish since September by finishing 15th.
Race result - 10 laps
|1||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Squadra Corse||Hyundai||26m02.896s|
|2||Aurelien Panis||Comtoyou Cupra||Cupra||2.446s|
|3||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Squadra Corse||Hyundai||10.009s|
|4||Esteban Guerrieri||Munnich Motorsport||Honda||10.878s|
|5||Joao Paulo de Oliveira||KC Motorgroup||Honda||11.287s|
|6||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing||Lynk & Co||12.125s|
|7||Daniel Haglof||PWR Racing||Cupra||17.213s|
|8||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||Volkswagen||20.142s|
|9||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Racing Team||Hyundai||31.331s|
|11||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance||Lynk & Co||36.466s|
|12||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||Volkswagen||37.211s|
|14||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance||Lynk & Co||42.004s|
|16||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||Volkswagen||45.377s|
|17||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||Cupra||58.401s|
|18||Ma Qinghua||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo||1m00.734s|
|19||Mitchell Cheah||Team Engstler||Hyundai||1m03.709s|
|20||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||Alfa Romeo||1m05.014s|
|21||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Audi||Audi||1m07.607s|
|22||Nestor Girolami||Munnich Motorsport||Honda||1m10.078s|
|23||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||Volkswagen||1m17.382s|
|24||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Cupra||Cupra||1m20.508s|
|25||Hafizh Syahrin||Team Engstler||Hyundai||1m24.275s|
|26||Douglas Khoo||Viper Niza Racing||Cupra||1m36.373s|
|27||Thed Bjork||Cyan Racing||Lynk & Co||2m02.312s|
|28||Augusto Farfus||BRC Racing Team||Hyundai||2m22.601s|
|-||Frederic Vervisch||Comtoyou Audi||Audi||Retirement|
|27||Joao Paulo de Oliveira||0.011|
|1||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||0.603|
|2||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||0.567|
|3||All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport||0.521|
|4||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||0.328|
|5||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||0.307|
|9||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||0.24|
|10||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||0.236|
|11||SLR VW Motorsport||0.233|
|12||Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing||0.185|