Cape Tribulation put himself in the Gold Cup picture with a last-gasp success in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham.
In an attritional renewal, only the winner, Hunt Ball and Imperial Commander were in contention from quite some way out as gruelling conditions took a toll.
Hunt Ball and Imperial Commander were going powerfully at the head of affairs, but Cape Tribulation was all the while in their slipstream under a superb waiting ride from Denis O'Regan.
Hunt Ball gave way in the straight and just as Imperial Commander, the 2010 Gold Cup winner having his start for 680 days, looked like he had done enough, the Malcolm Jefferson-trained Cape Tribulation (7-1) dramatically got up on the line.
Jefferson said: "Now I think we'll probably have to come back for the Gold Cup. I'm not saying he's going to win it but he might get placed in one, this year's especially.
"He's in the World Hurdle, but he is jumping so well now I think the Gold Cup is the race he'll go for.
"On his day he's a good horse. Denis was brilliant, but if a horse does everything right these are good jockeys and they know what to do.
"He might be better on better ground and if could get a place in the Gold Cup that might be better than running with a big weight in a handicap."
Nigel Twiston-Davies was full of praise for Imperial Commander.
He said: "You'd have to be delighted and if we'd been able to get him fit enough he probably would have won.
"It's been so difficult getting him back with his splint problems but we have kept him swimming and that made all the difference.
"He kept tanking and if he had settled better he would probably have had more of a finishing kick.
"There are six weeks to to the Gold Cup and that is plenty of time."
Trainer Keiran Burke also confirmed Hunt Ball would target the Gold Cup.
He said: "We were going to go for the Racing Plus Chase, but I think we will give that a swerve and go straight to the Gold Cup.
"He'll get the trip on better ground."