Dani Pedrosa kept his slender MotoGP title ambitions alive by defeating Jorge Lorenzo to claim victory at Motegi.
His fourth victory in the last five races carried Pedrosa to within 28 points of the Yamaha rider, although overturning that margin with just three races left will require an element of misfortune for Lorenzo.
Alvaro Bautista meanwhile claimed third after a fantastic late battle with Cal Crutchlow. The pair traded position several times and even touched before the contest was eventually decided in the Spaniard's favor when Crutchlow ran out of fuel on the final lap. Their battle was a welcome late addition to a race in which the lead fight had promised much but ultimately failed to deliver.
In a pattern reminiscent of Brno, Lorenzo led early on but was never able to pull more than half a second clear of Pedrosa. The Honda rider made his move 13 laps from the finish, and while Lorenzo initially stayed with him, the gap had stretched to over one second within two laps.
That effectively signaled the end of Lorenzo's victory challenge, Pedrosa easing away through a combination of his own pace and Lorenzo's lack of urgency given his championship advantage.
As the front duo pulled away, an early six-rider battle for third slowly separated, with Crutchlow easing away from the pack until Bautista reeled him in late on. Casey Stoner was also involved at first, rising as high as fourth on lap one. His cause was aided by Ben Spies's exit at Turn 1 on only the second lap.
Stoner, struggling with injury, predictably fell back slightly and eight laps from the end was picked off by the second Tech 3 Yamaha of Andrea Dovizioso. The Italian then inherited fourth when stablemate Crutchlow spluttered to a halt on the final lap, a cruel end to an impressive race.
Stefan Bradl took a lonely sixth, ahead of an equally lonely Valentino Rossi in seventh.
Results - 24 laps:
Pos Rider Team/Bike Time/Gap
1. Dani Pedrosa Honda 42m31.569s
2. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha + 4.275s
3. Alvaro Bautista Gresini Honda + 6.752s
4. Andrea Dovizioso Tech 3 Yamaha + 16.397s
5. Casey Stoner Honda + 20.566s
6. Stefan Bradl LCR Honda + 24.567s
7. Valentino Rossi Ducati + 26.072s
8. Nicky Hayden Ducati + 36.724s
9. Katsuyuki Nakasuga Yamaha + 36.794s
10. Hector Barbera Pramac Ducati + 1m10.729s
11. Karel Abraham Cardion Ducati + 1m15.658s
12. Aleix Espargaro Aspar Aprilia + 1m22.769s
13. Colin Edwards Forward Suter-BMW + 1m24.968s
14. James Ellison Paul Bird Aprilia + 1m29.388s
15. Michele Pirro Gresini FTR-Honda + 1m34.612s
16. Roberto Rolfo Speed Master Aprilia + 1m50.853s
Cal Crutchlow Tech 3 Yamaha 23 laps
Danilo Petrucci Ioda Suter-BMW 23 laps
Ivan Silva Avintia BQR-Kawasaki 14 laps
Randy de Puniet Aspar Aprilia 14 laps
Ben Spies Yamaha 1 lap
Yonny Hernandez Avintia BQR-Kawasaki 1 lap