Marco Simoncelli's back-to-back title hopes got a big boost with victory in a shortened 250cc Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island as the other title challengers struck problems.
Simoncelli took over at the front after Alex Debon retired from the lead before the end of lap one.
From that point onwards Simoncelli was never headed, leading Hector Barbera early before being joined by Raffaele de Rosa and Alvaro Bautista later in the race. However, despite having three riders close behind him Simoncelli always seemed to be in control.
He appeared to be heading for victory when the race was red-flagged on lap 20 of the 25-lap scheduled distance when his team-mate Roberto Locatelli crashed heavily on the exit of MG hairpin, leaving his bike stuck in the middle of the track, with the amended results confirming Simoncelli as the winner.
Second was Hector Barbera, just ahead of Raffaele de Rosa, both riders having lost ground to leader Simoncelli when Alvaro Bautista crashed at Honda hairpin on lap 18 from second place.
The fall was an expensive one for Bautista as the final results were taken at the end of lap 18, after the red flag for Locatelli. Though Bautista remounted, he dropped from second place to tenth.
The red flag proved costly for championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama, who had struggled for pace throughout the race as he fought in the second group of riders, hovering around the middle of the top ten.
But Bautista's fall and Jules Cluzel's a lap later as well as a pass or two meant that he was running fourth when the race was stopped. With the winding back of the results, he fell back to seventh place behind the crashed Cluzel, Mike di Meglio and Karel Abraham.
In what appears a cruel decision, Roberto Locatelli was disqualified from the results following his red flag-causing crash after he failed to return to the pitlane in the mandatory five minutes after the flag went out.
Aoyama's lead over Simoncelli is now down to 12 points with two races remaining, instead of 16 had he maintained the fourth position.
Bautista is still in the title hunt 29 points behind Aoyama, but had the red flag come a lap earlier he would have been 14 points better off, while Hector Barbera is 33 points behind Aoayama.
Pos Rider Bike Time
1. Marco Simoncelli Gilera 28m17.403s
2. Hector Barbera Aprilia + 2.434s
3. Raffaele De Rosa Honda + 2.604s
4. Jules Cluzel Aprilia + 12.118s
5. Mike Di Meglio Aprilia + 12.192s
6. Karel Abraham Aprilia + 12.413s
7. Hiroshi Aoyama Honda + 12.455s
8. Hector Faubel Honda + 13.112s
9. Ratthapark Wilairot Honda + 13.560s
10. Alvaro Bautista Aprilia + 27.779s
11. Thomas Luthi Aprilia + 28.222s
12. Lukas Pesek Aprilia + 28.657s
13. Alex Debon Aprilia + 33.892s
14. Shuhei Aoyama Honda + 38.779s
15. Shoya Tomizawa Honda + 40.529s
16. Balazs Nemeth Aprilia +1m23.200s
17. Bastien Chesaux Aprilia +1m24.298s
18. Imre Toth Aprilia + 1 lap
19. Valentin Debise Honda + 1 lap
Rider Bike Laps
Roberto Locatelli Gilera + 30.515
Rider Bike Laps
Axel Pons Aprilia 16
Alex Baldolini Aprilia 15
Mattia Pasini Aprilia 7
Vladimir Leonov Aprilia 7
FASTEST LAP: de Rosa, 1m33.519s on lap 13