Matt Neal came through an enthralling and at times chaotic final Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship encounter at Donington Park, the Honda Yuasa Racing man claiming his second win of the season to take the championship lead.
Rookie Josh Cook was usurped from pole position by the fast-starting BMW of Rob Collard when the lights went out for the final 19-lapper of the day, but was quick to pressure his experienced rival and took the lead on lap three with a better exit from Coppice.
The battle behind the lead pair was fraught with aggression, starting when Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan dispatched the third-placed BMR Racing Volkswagen CC of race one winner, Jason Plato.
Neal then lost out to the Triple Right Racing MG of Jordan but the latter was tagged into a lurid slide by the Honda at McLeans on lap six, causing a bottleneck effect which saw Aron Smith emerge ahead of Neal a lap later in third position for BMR.
The bunching at the final chicane ended with Jack Goff‘s Triple Eight MG and Sam Tordoff‘s West Surrey Racing BMW coming together, both careering into the tyre barrier and retirement.
A safety car interruption to remove to two cars wiped out Cook’s lead, Smith instantly pouncing on the restart by cutting inside Collard for second spot to move up to the rear bumper of the leading Chevrolet Cruze.
Cook defended his line grimly over the following laps, but slight contact as Smith inched ahead at Craner Curves ended with the pair heading through the grass at high speed, before returning to the tarmac to continue their dice in the swarming pack behind.
Collard inherited the lead once again, but he was then relegated by Neal at Redgate on lap 17. Jordan pushed the Type-R through at Craner, but the contact send Neal sideways and both had another huge moment which they emerged from still leading in a five-car duel.
Neal fended off Jordan for his second win in six races by just 0.157s, Gordon Shedden making it two Honda drivers on the podium in third ahead of Collard and Aiden Moffat, the latter charging through the field to fifth place ahead of Smith following a great dice between the two.
Cook was seventh ahead of Plato, while Martin Depper climbed into the top 10 ahead of Tom Ingram and race two winner, Colin Turkington, who struggled on softer rubber.
Neal, who entered the round as series leader, maintains his lead but by just two points from Turkington after six of 30 races.