Moscow Flyer regained his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown with a magnificent performance at Cheltenham on a great afternoon for the sport.
The gallant 11-year-old had rising star Well Chief two lengths back in second place with the other member of the big three, Azertyuiop, a further 13 lengths away after a thrilling race.
It was a flawless display by the 6-4 favourite. Erasing the memory of his exit in midrace last year, Moscow Flyer answered every call from jockey Barry Geraghty all the way to the line to hold the dogged challenge of Well Chief and reclaim the twomile title.
Azertyuiop never looked happy after he dropped his hind legs in the water jump and he could not make an impression on the leaders thereafter.
Kadarann and Central House took the field along at a fair old clip early on, with Moscow Flyer and Azertyuiop sat in behind, and Well Chief towards the rear.
All three of the principals went strongly until Azertyuiop's watery error, which allowed a coasting Moscow Flyer to take it up three from home, with a confident Geraghty taking time for a look over his shoulder.
Exact estimates as to what percentage of the crowd had backed the winner were unclear. Those trying to judge it from the throng around the winner's enclosure could be forgiven that it had been a one-horse race.
"That was perfect," said Geraghty, as he recovered his breath from a flying dismount which came to a slithery finish on the rainsoftened turf.
"He winged the last - gave it a foot. I think you have to have the downs to appreciate the ups. After last year it makes it so much better this time round. Moscow Flyer might be getting on a bit, but there's still a bit of spice left in him."
Twelve months ago, Moscow Flyer went on from unseating in this race to win again at Aintree and Punchestown. But trainer Jessica Harrington said: "I watched every fence. He may have been a little bit slow over the fence he fell at last year but other than that he was footperfect. He was great.
"He was absolutely brilliant. He did it the hard way and he doesn't seem to be showing his age at all.
"We had a good lead-up to the race and we'll try our best to be back here in 12 months' time.
"I'll never have another horse like him, that's for sure. It's already been a great meeting for the Irish and it's getting better all the time."
Despite being pursued all the way to the finish by Well Chief, Harrington reported that she always felt fairly comfortable that the horse's remarkable record of never having been beaten when finishing a race would be maintained. This was his 18th chase victory.
She said: "He just kept pulling out more - one of his traits is that he never wins spectacularly. He did over hurdles a couple of times but since he went chasing he's decided 'I'm only going to do what I have to'."
Owner Brian Kearney then advised those not privileged enough to own a great racehorse how the negotiation process with the trainer takes place.
He said: "Last year he ran at Aintree and Punchestown but I'll be guided by my trainer as to what we do this year. She'll ask my advice and then she'll tell me what we're going to do. But he is getting on a bit and maybe both races might be asking a bit much."
Well Chief's trainer Martin Pipe, far from disconsolate, said: "I'm very pleased. It was a fantastic run and I'm delighted - that has got to be the best run of his life.
"He jumped well and travelled well, and we have no excuses. If I'd been told three months ago that we would be beaten only two lengths by Moscow Flyer, we would have settled for that.
"I don't know what we'll do with him now. He's only got to find two lengths and he is only a baby. He's only six - Moscow Flyer is 11."
Azertyuiop's jockey Ruby Walsh, who stood among the throng and applauded the winner as he walked in from the racecourse, said: "My horse ran no race. On form he should have been dividing Well Chief and Moscow Flyer but he was never going. When he jumped the first fence I was going a bit faster than I wanted to be. That's not Azertyuiop.
"He made a mistake at the water but it didn't matter. It was all over for me. At that stage I could hardly keep up. Obviously I'm very disappointed, I don't know what's up with him. The horse can't tell you what's wrong but he just wasn't himself. He just kept galloping away but there was no life.
"Moscow Flyer is a marvellous horse, ridden by a great jockey, trained by a great trainer. My horse will be back to fight another day - all is not lost."
Azertyuiop's owner John Hales added: "We're disappointed but at least he's come home in one piece and I have congratulated the owner and the trainer of the winner.
"It's the first time he's had an off-day - he's not a horse that has really had off-days until today. He made a bad mistake, which is very uncharacteristic of him. I'm not making excuses though. The best horse won.
"We will have to see where we go now, whether we run again or put him in a field. We'll probably only go to Sandown if we are in with a chance of winning the Order Of Merit."
Azertyuiop is clear in the race for the £250,000 first prize of that event.