Jenson Button thrust himself back into Formula One world title contention with a faultless pole-to-flag Belgian Grand Prix victory after avoiding the first-corner chaos that accounted for four drivers.
The McLaren driver finished ahead of Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus as championship leader Fernando Alonso was the biggest casualty of the early crash, ending his run of 23 consecutive races in the points, along with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton.
The accident was instigated by Lotus' Romain Grosjean, and not for the first time this year on lap one, whilst Sauber's Sergio Perez was also forced into retirement.
Button's 14th career triumph means he is still 63 points adrift of Alonso, but the 32-year-old McLaren star cannot be discounted after finally finding some form of late.
Reigning champion Vettel, who had started 10th after a poor qualifying by his and the team's standards, closed the gap to Alonso to within a race win at 24 points. Raikkonen's sixth podium finish this year means he is 33 points down in the standings in fourth, one point behind Mark Webber, who was fifth in the race.
Hamilton remains static at 47 points behind Alonso, but with one less race remaining at eight, and heading to Italy next weekend on the back of a week to forget at Spa-Francorchamps. From seventh on the grid Hamilton was clipped by Grosjean attempting to cut across the Briton.
As the rear-right tyre of Grosjean's car hit the front-left of Hamilton's McLaren, it sparked a chain reaction which resulted in the exit of four cars at the first corner La Source hairpin. As the mayhem unfolded Grosjean and Hamilton collected Alonso and Perez, the latter duo having started from fifth and fourth.
On-board replays showed Grosjean's Lotus flying over the front of the Ferrari, missing the head of the Spaniard by inches. Unsurprisingly the safety car was immediately deployed, staying out for the opening four laps, with Button leading a procession of cars, followed by Force India duo Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta.
On lap five the field was reduced to 19 as Pastor Maldonado, who would have been investigated for a clear jump start that led to a shake of the head from race director Charlie Whiting, lost his front wing, pulling off track at Les Combes.
Up ahead, though, Button did not put a wheel wrong throughout the remainder of the race, while others behind scrapped over the minor placings.