(CNN)MotoGP roared back after its summer break Sunday, serving up a tense duel in front of almost 70,000 fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
MotoGP: Marquez keeps title dream alive at Indianapolis
Reigning world champion Marc Marquez narrowly edged fellow Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo for the win, having patiently tracked him for almost the entire race, while championship leader Valentino Rossi snatched a last gasp third place to maintain a slim lead in the standings.
"The race went very well, but we were pretty much on the limit," Marquez admitted. "The truth is that Jorge improved a lot during the race, and I didn't think there would be so many laps in the 1:32 seconds. Even towards the end of the race we did a 1:32.6, which is very fast."
Lorenzo rued the physical demands of fighting off Marquez for so many laps: "When he attacked I really didn't have enough energy and I wasn't fresh enough to make an attack on him," he told reporters.
Qualifying continues to pose problems for Rossi as he bids for his tenth title, and "The Doctor" yet again made life hard for himself, starting from eighth on the grid, before firing his way into fourth place on the opening lap.
Lorenzo charged to an early lead, but was unable to open up a gap on the resurgent Marquez, who seems finally to have found the comfort with his bike that made him look so impressively effortless last term.
The front of the race developed into two separate Honda-Yamaha contests, with Marquez stalking Lorenzo at the front, and Rossi shadowing Dani Pedrosa in the battle for third.
With three laps remaining Marquez struck, ducking underneath Lorenzo's M1 and immediately opening an unassailable lead.
Just behind them, Rossi and Pedrosa's fight was more frantic. Rossi got the better of the Spaniard early, only to lose his place almost immediately. A typically robust last lap pass from Rossi set up a dramatic drag for the line, with the Italian taking a potentially invaluable podium by just 0.181 seconds.
In spite of missing out on the win, Lorenzo continues to take advantage of Rossi's inability to master qualifying, an issue that the Italian knows he must address.
"We struggle too much in the practice, and we arrive with a little bit too much of a delay before finding a good setting," Rossi admitted.
"If I would have been able to start from the second row, I would have been able to stay with Marc and Jorge until the end of the race. We have to work hard on this, starting from Brno," added Rossi, referring to the next race in the Czech Republic on August 16.
Marquez's second successive win leaves him 56 points off the lead, but the gap is closing and the champion retains a slim chance of retaining his crown. On current form Lorenzo looks the most likely victor, but the second half of this intriguing season promises to be fascinating.