Darlan staked a massive claim for top honours with an emphatic win in the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
The Nicky Henderson-trained five-year-old, owned by JP McManus, became a major contender for the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival as he beat several other leading players in tremendous fashion.
The winner's stablemate Punjabi set a steady pace after no-one wanted to make the running.
There was all to play for as they turned for home with two flights to jump and it was Darlan who quickened impressively for Tony McCoy to stride away on the run to the last.
Darlan (3-1) went on to win on his seasonal debut by four and a half lengths from Raya Star (8-1) with Dodging Bullets third and the Fighting Fifth winner Countrywide Flame only fourth.
BetVictor slashed Darlan from 10-1 to 7-2 favourite for the Stan James Champion Hurdle