Scott McLaughlin has triumphed for the first time in 10 Supercars races, restoring a 14-point buffer at the top of the championships standings.
Scott McLaughlin has laughed last and loudest after a dramatic Supercars weekend at Pukekohe Park, winning Sunday's race to restore a buffer at the top of the championship standings.
McLaughlin won a strategic battle with Jamie Whincup to wrest control of the race, holding the pacy polesitter at bay for more than 30 laps in front of a buoyant home crowd.
The battle was fierce during the final stages as Whincup stayed less than a second behind McLaughlin and sought any angle or opportunity to pass.
McLaughlin held firm, re-asserting his championship credentials for a win made all the more meritorious by the events of the previous two days.
On Friday, he was forced to abandon practice after a crash that left his garage a late-night repair job.
The 25-year-old finished second behind title rival Shane van Gisbergen on Saturday, enduring an on-track and psychological battering from his countryman.
But Sunday was McLaughlin's day, enjoying improved race pace and a superior pit-stop strategy to return to the top of the podium for the first time in 10 races.
McLaughlin's emotion was evident in his celebrations. He jumped on the fence in front of the main grandstand and then again on his car in jubilation.
"I've got to choose my words wisely because I'm going to swear," he said.
"There was immense pressure from Jamie.
"All these fans, I've haven't won here since 2013 and it means so much. It's unreal."
Van Gisbergen dropped down the order after a slow pit stop - an ironic way to lose ground considering the Aucklander's team spent the previous 24 hours battling officials to avoid a penalty for spinning his wheels in pit lane during Saturday's race.
In a final flourish of gamesmanship, Whincup yielded his second place to van Gisbergen on the final lap when it became clear he couldn't catch the rampant McLaughlin.
It was in keeping with Red Bull's ruthless win-at-all-costs attitude, shown when van Gisbergen trapped McLaughlin in his car by parking him in after the Saturday race.
But both Triple Eight drivers were full of praise for McLaughlin's rebounding performance, which also earned him the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy.
"We just tweaked (our car) the wrong way which is a shame," van Gisbergen said.
"Congratulations to Scott - I can't think of a better guy to win the trophy."
After all the drama, the two Kiwi title contenders head to the season-ending meet at Newcastle in the same position as they arrived; with McLaughlin 14 points ahead.