Casey Stoner's charge to a second MotoGP title was held up as he survived a scare to finish third in a crash-filled Japanese Grand Prix behind Spanish duo Dani Pedrosa and world champion Jorge Lorenzo.
Honda's Pedrosa rode a controlled race, untroubled by the chaos around him, with seven-times world champion Valentino Rossi crashing off on turn two in the first of several hair-raising spills in overcast conditions at Motegi's Twin Ring circuit.
Australian Stoner, who started on pole for a record 10th time in the MotoGP four-stroke era, powered away from the grid and looked untouchable until a front-wheel wobble and brake failure while hurtling into a corner at 180kph caused him to run into the gravel on lap four.
The 2007 world champion re-emerged in seventh place and tore his way back through the field to earn a podium finish, leaving him 40 points clear of Yamaha's Lorenzo with three races remaining this season.
The next race will be Stoner's home grand prix at Phillip Island in a fortnight.
Pedrosa took the chequered flag more than seven seconds ahead of Lorenzo with Stoner well back.