Jazeman Jaafar converted pole position into a victory during race one of the trio of British F3 encounters at Brands Hatch after a tight fight with Jordan King.
The two Carlin cars led the way from start to finish as Jaafar made a perfect jump – unlike Will Buller, the championship leader jumping the start as he flew from seventh up to almost third at Paddock Hill bend.
The subsequent drive through penalty dropped the Fortec driver to eighth place and fighting to make up ground, while title rival King set about chasing after his team-mate at the front.
Jaafar was always just too far away to be challenged around the tight and technical Brands Hatch circuit which the Malaysian driver personally admitted that he missed racing around, King only able to close to within 0.5s.
The pair remained close all race, but Jaafar held on to claim a narrow win in a Carlin 1-2 and return to the top stop of a British F3 podium, the pair of blue Dallara Volkswagens pulling clear of Antonio Giovinazzi who claimed a podium finish to also enhance his championship prospects.
A faster King even backed off twice to attempt to snatch the bonus point for fastest lap, one that in the end was taken away from him by points leader Buller in the dying stages.
Fourth place went the way of Nicholas Latifi after a quiet race, team-mate Jann Mardenborough making it four Carlin machines in the top five as ahead of the two languishing Fortec cars.
Felipe Guimaraes lost out badly in a first lap incident, and eventually conceded sixth to Buller at Paddock Hill on the penultimate lap, Buller now leading the championship by 12 points from King.
While Double R team-mate Sean Gelael retired from an accident at Sheene Curve, Tatiana Calderon finished eighth ahead of the National class runners.
That class was won in the end by Sun Zheng who continued his victory streak to four, helped somewhat by class pole-sitter Ed Jones suffering a problem on the warm-up lap which meant he started from the pits, the West-Tec man retiring not long into the race.
Zheng had to fend off another West-Tec in the early phase, as Cameron Twynham kept him honest in the encounter before the CF Racing driver stretched his legs late in the race.
The top eight for race two will be reversed for race two tomorrow which puts Calderon on pole position, with race three’s grid matching the overall qualifying results.