Matt Neal closed the gap to his teammate to just five points at the top of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship with a hard-earned win in race three at Oulton Park.
The defending champion led a four-car train over the line to take his second win of the day, with one second covered himself, Jason Plato, Tom Onslow–Cole and Gordon Shedden at the flag.
Onslow-Cole had made the most of his pole position on the reverse grid to lead into Old Hall, with his Ebay Motors BMW team mate Nick Foster following him in second.
At the back of the field there was a minor melee as Adam Morgan and Will Bratt made contact on the run down to Cascades, with Andy Neate spinning in avoidance and Jeff Smith taking to the grass for evasive action.
Neal and Plato rose from 5th and 7th respectively to put immediate pressure on Foster for 2nd. Neal forced his way alongside Foster on the run towards the hairpin, sneaking past on the outside. Plato followed him through to 3rd swiftly enough, outbraking the BMW into the Knickerbrook chicane, with Lea Wood the next to try and find a way through.
Shedden passed Wood and they both made short work of Foster before the first of two Safety Cars came out.
Liam Griffin was the cause of the first, losing control of his Redstone Racing Ford Focus into Druids, slamming hard into the barriers before pirouetting onto the grass.
At the same time there was contact further up the field, with Mat Jackson and Dan Welch coming together under braking for Lodge, which resulted in the Proton being fired into the gravel trap.
As the Safety Car led the field it was Onslow-Cole from Neal, Plato, Shedden, Wood, Foster, Jordan, Collard, up from 14th, Jackson, up from 18th, and Tony Gilham. Welch managed to rejoin at the back of the grid, as Ollie Jackson, Andy Neate and Dave Newsham pit.
The Safety Car came in as the cars began lap ten – with the race extended to 18 laps – but was out again almost immediately.
Collard had got the jump on Jordan, slipping up the inside into Old Hall, but the BMW and the Civic made contact, bumping Jordan off-track and sending him nose-first into the end of tyre wall. It was a big impact and with the tyres substantially strewn across the grass, back out came the Safety Car, but not before Aron Smith and Ollie Jackson – fresh out of the pits – made contact at Island hairpin.
Three laps later they were racing again, and a lap later Neal was in front.
Later on the brakes into hairpin, he scythed into the lead, Onslow-Cole trying to fight back heading into Knickerbrook but swiftly having to to turn his attention to Plato behind.
The MG man did not waste too much time in getting past, outbraking the former race leader into Lodge – and setting his sights on Neal's Honda.
Morgan and Bratt made contact for the second time on the exit of Island hairpin, the Audi being launched into the air, but both continued and Bratt would eventually finish just outside the top ten in 11th.
On lap 17 Collard passed team mate Foster for 6th at Knickerbrook, as Mat Jackson recovered from an excursion at Knickerbrook by passing Gilham.
Onto the last lap there was a four-way scrap for the lead. Neal had looked in control but Plato had significantly reeled him in on the penultimate tour, though hopes of a grandstand finish proved slightly premature.
Plato could not get close enough to force a move and Onslow-Cole had to concentrate on Shedden behind him, so the order stayed the same as they powered through Deerleap and across the line.
Lea Wood completed the top five, beating his best ever finishing position of seventh from Oulton Park last year, while Collard, Jackson, Foster, Wrathall and Tony Gilham rounded out the top ten.
The championship returns in two weeks time at Croft, where Plato will look to regain the lead after slipping behind both Yuasa Hondas in Cheshire.