Mark Winterbottom has held firm to claim his first V8 Supercars race win of the season, prevailing at Barbagallo Raceway on Sunday.
Winterbottom breathed new life into his championship defence in the 200km race, his first victory since last year’s Sandown 500.
He staved off a rampant Scott McLaughlin and Saturday’s race winner Craig Lowndes in a frantic finale to top the podium.
In Perth, a Rubik’s Cube of a race was only solved in the dying stages when the duelling strategies and tactics came together.
Following Lowndes’ strategic masterclass on Saturday, when he carved through the field with the benefit of fresh tyres from an extra stop, most drivers opted for a three-stop approach.
Winterbottom and McLaughlin weren’t interested in following their lead, committing to two-stop strategies.
For Winterbottom, this was a bold gamble given he and his team were sharply critical of their tyre life on Saturday.
The Ford man was the first to complete his final pit-stop, leaving him with 30 laps to get home with degrading tyres.
As the laps ticked down, so too did the gap to his nearest chaser McLaughlin.
With 18 laps remaining, the gap was 11 seconds. With 11 laps to go, it was just more than six seconds.
It looked as though Winterbottom would hold the field off before backmarker Aaren Russell threw a fly in the ointment.
With five laps remaining, Russell astonishingly overtook Winterbottom despite being a lap down, helping to shorten the gap between the race leaders
A furious Winterbottom told his team radio “that has just cost me the race” as he saw the Volvo S60 in his rear-view mirror.
But there was to be no way past for McLaughlin, who too was struggling with tyre life, or Lowndes who did his darnedest from third to pass them both.
Just as Lowndes did a day earlier, Winterbottom said he wasn’t sure what his engineer was thinking with a two-stop strategy.
“I questioned him and he said ‘we’re doing it’ and I just held on,” he said.
“I thought I was gone.”
With his podium finish, Lowndes nabbed the championship lead, 42 points ahead of Jamie Whincup, who finished 11th.
McLaughlin is third in the overall standings, a further six points behind and Winterbottom improved his series outlook to fourth place.