Cannington Brook edged out Merry King after a thrilling duel to win the Blue Square Bet Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at Haydock for the second successive season.
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The 9/2 winner was burdened with top weight in the stamina sapping ground but made light of the issue and led his rival over the last.
However Richie McLernon was at his strongest aboard the eventual runner-up and conjured a late rally from the 7/2 favourite who was in front a stride after the line.
It took the judge four minutes to separate the pair but the photographic evidence confirmed Cannington Brook had held on by a nose and it was 14 lengths back to Mac Aeda (6/1) in third.
Winning jockey Tom O'Brien said: "He was going to go for the Welsh National but he loves the track here, and he probably doesn't really want three-miles-five although I'm sure he would stay.
"He's not slow, though. I wasn't sure if I'd held on, he idled a bit with me in it last year and he's done the same again."
McLernon was banned for two days (January 6 and 7) for using his whip above the permitted level aboard Merry King.