Todd Hazelwood will take a slim advantage into the final race of the 2017 Dunlop Super2 Series after winning Race 1 in Newcastle.
Paul Dumbrell’s 49-point lead turned into an 11-point deficit when he finished eighth after starting last due to a crash in qualifying.
With 12 points the difference between first and second in each of the weekend’s two races, the result sets up a fascinating final day of the season.
Hazelwood (#35 Matt Stone Racing VF Commodore) got the jump from pole position and led from start to finish, enjoying a lead of between one and two seconds for much of the race.
However, the 22-year-old ran well wide at Nobbys Hairpin on Lap 15, allowing outgoing series winner Garry Jacobson to slash his lead.
Despite the pressure of the #1 Prodrive Racing Australia FGX Falcon for the rest of the 20-lap race, Hazelwood held firm to take a crucial win.
Jacobson set his race up with a strong start from third on the grid, forcing his way past Jack Le Brocq into the first corner.
But for a slight error at Turn 8 on Lap 2, when he nearly opened the door for Will Brown, he did not look back.
Le Brocq experienced an eventful race, with smoke filling the cabin of the #28 MW Motorsport Altima on Lap 1.
However, the smoke cleared and Le Brocq regrouped to set the then-fastest lap on Lap 4 while running fifth, then the ultimate Super2 lap record on Lap 8.
He passed Bryce Fullwood (#16 Altima) through the fast Turn 10 sweep on Lap 6, with Shae Davies (#26 Altima) boldly following team-mate past team-mate.
Le Brocq then closed in on Will Brown, who invited more pressure when he pinched a brake at Nobbys Hairpin on Lap 11.
The 2016 runner-up lunged down the inside at the top of Watt Street on Lap 14 but locked up and took Brown wide with him.
Davies pounced on both of them to take over third, with Le Brocq staying fourth, and those positions remained until the end.
Fullwood got by Brown later that lap on the run to the hairpin, after a touch at the dogleg between Turns 9 and 10.
They finished fifth and sixth, ahead of Brodie Kostecki.
Dumbrell looked destined to finish tenth after failing to find a way past Kostecki, but inherited two positions courtesy of a final-corner incident between Nathan Morcom and Richard Muscat.
Muscat unloaded Morcom, who was seventh at the time, with the latter passed by Dumbrell on the track as he sat sideways and the former quickly penalised post-race.
Morcom and Andrew Jones rounded out the top 10.
Anton de Pasquale and Jack Perkins were among the retirements due to a mechanical issue and Lap 1 contact respectively.
The field will qualify again for Race 2 tomorrow at 1040 local time/AEDT.
Results: Race 1, Round 7, Newcastle
|1||Bigmate Racing||Todd Hazelwood||Holden Commodore VF||20||24:22.9605|
|2||MEGA Fules Racing||Garry Jacobson||Ford Falcon FG/X||20||24:23.9304|
|3||LOCO Energy Drink / MWM||Shae Davies||Nissan Altima||20||24:29.7870|
|4||GoGetta Racing/ MWM||Jack Le Brocq||Nissan Altima||20||24:30.3382|
|5||Middys Electrical / MWM||Bryce Fullwood||Nissan Altima||20||24:32.1893|
|6||Eggleston Motorsport||William Brown||Holden Commodore VF||20||24:32.9091|
|7||Sprint Cutting Racing||Brodie Kostecki||Ford Falcon FG||20||24:43.3438|
|8||Eggleston Motorsport||Paul Dumbrell||Holden Commodore VF||20||24:50.0060|
|9||Eggleston Motorsport||Nathan Morcom||Holden Commodore VF||20||24:51.4858|
|10||Alliance Truck Parts||Andrew Jones||Holden Commodore VF||20||24:53.6249|
|11||Wilson Security PAYCE GRM||Richard Muscat||Holden Commodore VF||20||24:59.4125|
|12||Auto 1 Albury||Matthew Chahda||Holden Commodore VF||20||25:02.2571|
|13||Auto One Racing||Adam Marjoram||Holden Commodore VF||20||25:04.1808|
|14||Wynns||Josh Kean||Ford Falcon FG/X||20||25:13.4637|
|15||Arcoplate Racing||Kurt Kostecki||Holden Commodore VF||20||25:13.7797|
|16||Joss / Caltex||Jordan Boys||Holden Commodore VF||20||25:23.0884|
|17||PAYCE||Macauley Jones||Holden Commodore VF||19||24:26.8928|
|18||STR Truck Bodies & Trailers||Matthew Palmer||Ford Falcon FG||19||25:17.1633|
|DNF||SCT Logistics||Jack Smith||Holden Commodore VF||4||5:59.6037|
|DNF||Wilson Security PAYCE GRM||Mason Barbera||Holden Commodore VF||3||4:14.8251|
|DNF||Paul Morris Motorsports||Anton de Pasquale||Ford Falcon FG/X||2||2:52.9274|
|DNF||Titan Tray||Jack Perkins||Holden Commodore VF|
Series Points: After Race 1, Round 7
|3||Jack Le Brocq||1481|
|4||Anton de Pasquale||1211|