(CNN) -- Casey Stoner claimed his third successive win at the Australian Grand Prix on a day when Valentino Rossi moved a step closer to retaining his MotoGP world championship title.
Casey Stoner claimed his third successive Australian win and his first victory since returning to MotoGP.
Fiat Yamaha rider Rossi finished second behind Stoner but more importantly saw his team-mate and nearest title rival Jorge Lorenzo fail to make it beyond the first corner after the Spaniard tangled with Nicky Hayden.
Ducati rider Stoner looked comfortable at the front as he led home Rossi by two seconds to claim a hat-trick of triumphs at his home event -- and his first win since returning from the illness which sidelined him for three races earlier this season.
Rossi's near-perfect day saw him move onto 270 points -- a lead of 38 over Lorenzo with just two races remaining.
"It was the most fun second place of my career because it was a great battle with Casey and the level was fantastic," Rossi told BBC TV.
"I tried with all my energy, all my speed, but Casey rode very well and at the end it was impossible and I also have to think of the championship. With Jorge out, we have a good advantage."
Stoner, meanwhile, was delighted to claim his third win of the season on his birthday weekend, a result which moved him into third place in the riders' standings.
"The whole team's done a fantastic job," he said. "We spent those three races away to fix myself up, they've been doing as much as they can with the bike and these things just helped us a little bit and made this weekend possible.
"It's definitely a big step from what we were in the middle of the season. It's nice to be able to fight for victories. Even if I didn't win today, I'd have had a ball."
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa took a distant third place while Honda Gresini's Alex de Angelis was fourth.
Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha) took fifth ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), while Marco Melandri (Hayate), Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), Mika Kallio (Pramac Racing) and Toni Elias (Honda Gresini) completed the top 10.