Andrea Iannone took a hard-fought third win of the season at Motegi, as Marc Marquez finally captured the championship lead courtesy of finishing second.
From the outside of the front row Iannone (Speed Master Suter) passed Marquez (Catalunya Suter) on the run down to the first corner, the first move in a race-long battle between the pair.
Simone Corsi (Ioda FTR) and a charging Stefan Bradl, who had started eighth on the Kiefer Kalex, also got themselves involved, with the top four all covered by less than 1s.
On lap 7 Marquez found his way by Iannone on the pit straight, but that only spurred on the 22-year-old. He retook the lead several corners later and then set a series of fastest laps, with only Marquez able to stick with him.
Bradl, meanwhile, had worked his way past Corsi and looked like he may do enough to preserve a narrow championship advantage, until Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Suter) and Alex de Angelis (JIR Motobi) made it a four-way fight for third.
Bradl's aggressive start was taking its toll, and he was picked off by Luthi and then Corsi, dropping him to fifth. He fought back on the last lap to snatch fourth from Corsi, but even so knew he would lose a championship lead held since the very first race. The damage was nearly made worse as Iannone seemed to find neutral and surrendered a 1sec gap to Marquez, but the Italian attacked instantly and passed Marquez again to take his third win of the year. Marquez now leads Bradl by one point as a result, with three races remaining.
De Angelis came home sixth, ahead of Bradley Smith (Tech 3), Dominique Aegerter (Technomag-CIP Suter) and Esteve Rabat (Blusens FTR).
Home favorite Yuki Takahashi crashed from a fight for 12th on lap six, while the Pons Kalex squad saw Aleix Espargaro struggle and pit with tire issues and Axel Pons retire in the gravel six laps from the finish.
Results - 23 laps:
Pos Rider Team/Bike Time/Gap
1. Andrea Iannone Speed Master Suter 43m25.007s
2. Marc Marquez Catalunya Suter + 1.999s
3. Thomas Luthi Interwetten Suter + 3.686s
4. Stefan Bradl Kiefer Kalex + 4.313s
5. Simone Corsi Ioda FTR + 4.647s
6. Alex de Angelis JIR Motobi + 4.813s
7. Bradley Smith Tech 3 + 10.520s
8. Dominique Aegerter Technomag-CIP Suter + 10.725s
9. Esteve Rabat Blusens FTR + 11.387s
10. Mika Kallio Marc VDS Suter + 12.803s
11. Xavier Simeon Tech 3 + 18.259s
12. Anthony West MZ + 20.815s
13. Michele Pirro Gresini Moriwaki + 23.795s
14. Mattia Pasini Ioda FTR + 24.388s
15. Pol Espargaro Speed Up FTR + 34.071s
16. Jules Cluzel Forward Suter + 38.236s
17. Kenny Noyes Avintia FTR + 39.505s
18. Max Neukirchner MZ + 39.609s
19. Kenan Sofuoglu Technomag-CIP Suter + 42.296s
20. Scott Redding Marc VDS Suter + 44.162s
21. Valentin Debise Speed Up FTR + 46.662s
22. Ratthapark Wilairot SAG FTR + 46.950s
23. Yonny Hernandez Blusens FTR + 49.625s
24. Randy Krummenacher Kiefer Kalex + 50.590s
25. Robertino Pietri Italtrans Suter + 52.044s
26. Joan Olive Castello FTR + 52.365s
27. Mike di Meglio Tech 3 + 1m02.873s
28. Tomoyoshi Koyama Technomag-CIP Suter + 1m35.559s
29. Mashel Al Naimi QMMF Moriwaki + 1m35.771s
30. Yuki Takahashi Gresini Moriwaki + 1 lap
31. Aleix Espargaro Pons Kalex + 3 laps
Axel Pons Pons Kalex 6 laps
Santiago Hernandez SAG FTR 6 laps
Jordi Torres Aspar Suter 0 laps
Raffaele de Rosa Forward Suter 0 laps
Ricard Cardus QMMF Moriwaki 0 laps