Shane 'Shakey' Byrne took an emotional victory in race two at Brands Hatch but the other four title contenders all had difficulties in the damp conditions, setting up a thrilling battle in the final race of the year.
Polesitter Josh Brookes led through Paddock Hill bend but Byrne hit the front at Druids, diving up the inside of the Suzuki. The other high-profile GSX-R1000 hit trouble straight away though as Hopkins slowed with an electrical problem and although he managed to restart the bike, the championship leader had dropped to the back of the field.
With Hopkins out of play, things suddenly looked very good for Swan Yamaha with Tommy Hill in fifth and Michael Laverty pressing Byrne for the lead, the Northern Irishman knowing that his championship bid was back on track with Hopkins out of the points.
Laverty promptly took the lead at the start of lap two, cruising around the outside of Byrne at Paddock Hill but seconds later, he was out after sliding off on a damp patch at Druids. Byrne now had Brookes on his tail with the Australian also sensing an opportunity to boost his title hopes but he was the next man to fall, crashing in spectacular fashion at Paddock Hill on lap three.
Byrne couldn't believe his luck as moved into a three second lead while Crescent Suzuki's Jon Kirkham led the chasing pack. The Derby rider was fulfilling a vital role by taking second away from Hill on lap five, and the sole remaining Swan Yamaha was now under pressure from James Ellison for third.
With tyres fading, Hill held on until the penultimate lap of the race before Ellison breezed past on the run into Clearways, giving the SorryMate.com Honda squad their first ever podium to the delight of an overjoyed team boss Robin Croft.
Byrne was forced into defensive action himself in the closing laps as Kirkham moved right onto his tail but the Londoner kept his head to take victory, made particularly special given it's his first since the birth of his second daughter Lilly-Jade.
Unfortunately for him, Hill's fourth place ruled him out of the title chase and attention switched to Hopkins as he set about an exercise of damage limitation. By lap six, he was up to 19th before an accident between Steve Mercer and Barry Burrell promoted him up to 17th.
Incredibly, the next victim would be Ryuichi Kiyonari as his horrendous weekend continued. Hopkins eased through into 16th before a move on Dan Kneen moved him into the points shortly before half distance.
On lap 11, EVO champion Glen Richards crashed out allowing Hopkins through into 14th before the American overtook James Hillier and Scott Smart in quick succession to claim 12th. With Patric Muff 18 seconds up the road, Hopkins' progress ended there but with four championship points in the bag, the Suzuki man will take a two-point lead into the series finale later on today.
Almost unnoticed, Chris Walker equalled his best result of the year in fifth ahead of EVO winner Graeme Gowland and Tommy Bridewell while James Westmoreland took eighth ahead of Dan Linfoot and Karl Harris.