The Worlds End regained the lead close home to land a dramatic victory in the Grade One Marsh Hurdle at Ascot.
L'Ami Serge looked as though he would make a winning comeback after 580 days off the track when he headed 15-8 favourite The Worlds End between the last two flights.
Tom George's charge had led to that point, but a slow jump at that obstacle let in L'Ami Serge, who set sail for home in the extended three-mile showpiece, registered as the Long Walk Hurdle.
Switched by Adrian Heskin towards the centre of the course, The Worlds End would not give up and managed to reel in the winner to score by two and three-quarter lengths.
It was a second Grade One triumph for The Worlds End and paid a compliment to Paisley Park, who had beaten him in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month.
The late withdrawal of Paisley Park due to the ground robbed the race of its star attraction, with Tobefair also an absentee, which left just four runners.
George said: "They steadied it up at the halfway stage to get a bit of company and Adrian said he was in front long enough. But once he asked, he said there was plenty there and he picked up really nicely.
"Once I saw him pick up, I thought he would be OK, but I didn't feel very confident going to the last. Far from it. I thought, 'second again', but we would have been happy with that at this stage.
"I think we have had about 14 Grade Ones now - we didn't have one last year, but we had three the season before. They are hard to come by and you've got to train them like Grade One horses and hope it all falls your way on the day, which it has.
"We will enjoy this before making a decision on where we go next."
He went on: "I'm delighted. He had a lot of problems towards the second part of last season, which we have sorted out over the summer. The runner-up I watched more than ours, and he has run a hell of a race, as he was very keen the whole way and probably just didn't see out the trip.
"Maybe if someone had given us a lead, we would have found it easier as well. But at the end of the day we're happy with the way it has gone. He can go over fences one day, but for now we will stick with what we've got.
"The other thing we might consider, later on in the year, is he might love Auteuil now he copes with the soft ground. That is something we will talk about in the spring."
Heskin said: "It is great to get a Grade One under his belt, because he is a very good horse. I know that might not have been the strongest of renewals, but he was due one.
"He did everything well during the race, but when he got passed by L'Ami Serge, he was never for beating. The second I got stuck into him he was always picking up. He just kept finding and is just a dour stayer.
"Tom has done a great job with him and the two girls who look after him, Charlie and Sarah. He takes plenty of minding and goes to a spa a couple of times of week and it's great to get him back on track."
He added: "It is fantastic to win a Grade One in these colours. I'm very lucky to be riding for the McNeill family. I've had a tough couple of years with injuries and things and they've stuck by me and it's great that I'm able to repay them.
"I think this is the tip of the iceberg for them, as they have a great bunch of horses and I hope they are very successful."
Not So Sleepy ran his rivals ragged with a tremendous all-the-way win in the Betfair Exchange Trophy.
Successful over the course and distance four weeks earlier, Hughie Morrison's seven-year-old made the most of his light weight to romp home in the hands of Jonathan Burke.
The only serious worry his supporters had was when he almost tried to run out at a flight halfway through the race, an obstacle at which Zanza and Quoi De Neuf both came down.
In an eventful renewal, Richard Johnson made a remarkable recovery to stay on Crooks Peak, who made a bad mistake at the second flight.
But it was all about the Not So Sleepy (9-2 joint-favourite), who galloped on strongly to score by nine lengths from Monsieur Lecoq. Sir Valentine was four and a half lengths back in third place.
Regal Encore ground out a game success in an attritional race for the Dave Dawes Silver Cup Handicap Chase.
Winner of this race in 2016, Anthony Honeyball's 11-year-old pulled out all the stops in the stamina-sapping closing stages for Richie McLernon.
Black Corton made a brave effort from the front, but he had tough task under top-weight and it was those rivals towards the bottom of the handicap over three miles who came to the fore.
Acting Lass and Regal Encore (16-1) fought out a terrific finish, with the latter, owned by JP McManus, getting the verdict by three-quarters of a length.
Jerrysback, also carrying the McManus colours, was two and a quarter lengths back in third and Black Corton fourth.
Sam Twiston-Davies could not have been more bullish after jumping off Riders OnThe Storm (9-4), impressive winner of the Betfair Exchange Graduation Chase.
Having travelled strongly throughout, Twiston-Davies sent his mount on after the second last to score by seven lengths.
The jockey jumped off the and effusively said to connections: "You have a really smart horse on your hands, and he jumped immaculately."
His father, Nigel, who was crestfallen last weekend when an administrative error meant his charge had to miss the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham, added: "He will go to the Ryanair. You have to think that way. He is too buzzy for Gold Cups, but I'm delighted with that. That was impressive, I think."
No trainer is in better form than Venetia Williams, who is taking full advantage of the winter ground, and Espoir De Guye (11-4) gave her a 12th winner from her last 29 runners when romping away with the Plymouth Gin Handicap Chase in the hands of Charlie Deutsch.
The unexposed five-year-old was upped 9lb for an emphatic Exeter success a fortnight ago and turned on the taps again, defying the rise in superb fashion to record a 10-length success from My Way.
The step up in trip was key for the Bob Buckler-trained Flowing Cadenza, who sluiced through the heavy ground to land the Foundation Developments Novices' Hurdle in the hands of 3lb claimer Sean Houlihan.
The five-year-old mare (4-1) improved markedly from her handicap debut at Wincanton last time under a ground-saving ride, to power in front off the home turn and down Mister Murchan by three and a quarter lengths.