Sebastian Vettel left Abu Dhabi a relieved man after limiting the damage to Formula One title rival Fernando Alonso.
Vettel kept a cool, calm head in the wake of being told to start from the pitlane by the stewards after Red Bull were found guilty of a fuel irregularity, and throughout what was a chaotic grand prix.
Even team principal Christian Horner was only expecting Vettel to scrape into the top 10, at best, at the Yas Marina circuit.
But the 25-year-old German finished third, just three seconds behind Alonso and four adrift of Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn winning his first race for just over three years.
In only dropping three points to Alonso, Vettel heads into the United States Grand Prix 10 clear of the Spaniard, and knowing he can be champion for a third time if he finishes 15 points clear in the race.
Given his issues, which even included a front-wing change on lap 13 that dropped him to last again, Vettel said: "Usually it's hard enough to fight your way once through the field, but we did it twice.
"We were dead last, but at least we had a fresh wing, and from then I went through the field.
"It was a lot of fun. It was a big chance to lose out a lot, but we didn't lose hardly anything, so I'm very happy."
Going into the race Alonso must have believed he could take a huge slice out of Vettel's lead, but the fact he did not has put his title hopes in jeopardy again given the pace of the Red Bull.
"We just need to concentrate on our race and if we finish in front of Sebastian in the next two then maybe we have a chance. So that's our focus for now," said Alonso.
The title picture is now solely between Vettel and Alonso because despite giving Lotus their first win - and becoming the eighth different driver to take the chequered flag this year - Raikkonen trails by 57 points.
Red Bull's Mark Webber crashed out late, along with Lotus' Romain Grosjean in an incident sparked by Sauber's Sergio Perez and which brought the safety car into play for a second time.
The first occasion was on lap seven when Mercedes' Nico Rosberg ran into the back, and flew over the top of, HRT's Narain Karthikeyan.
The other big casualty was McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, cruelly denied a win for the second time in five races when leading, only to suffer a fuel pressure problem with his McLaren on lap 20.
Hamilton declared himself "gutted", adding: "I had really good pace all weekend and I feel certain we could have won.
"The car was a dream to drive, I was cruising and still pulling away when I had my problem. I was just unlucky."