Sebastian Vettel gave his hopes of claiming a third-consecutive world title a huge boost as he took advantage of Fernando Alonso's first-lap retirement with a consummate Japanese Grand Prix victory at Suzuka.
Vettel cruised to his third victory of the season, and second in a row, to move him to within four points of Alonso at the top of the drivers' championship, after the Spaniard dramatically crashed out at the first corner after contact with Kimi Raikkonen.
Felipe Massa did his chances of staying with Ferrari the power of good with second place and Kamui Kobayashi delighted the home crowd as he took a career-best finish third, becoming the first Japanese driver to finish on the podium here since Aguri Suzuki in 1990.
But it was another poor day for McLaren as Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and fifth, although the latter moved to within 42 points of Alonso.
Raikkonen was sixth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado - scoring his first points since winning in Spain - Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo.
In a chaotic start, Alonso was edged to the outside on the run down to turn one, but clipped Raikkonen's front wing, running wide before spinning and coming to a halt in the middle of the track. Vettel seized his opportunity with a controlled performance to claim victory.
Nico Rosberg also retired after a collision with Bruno Senna as the safety car made an appearance for the fourth straight race here, coming in after just one lap on track.
Vettel admitted it had taken him half the race to realise his principal title rival was out, but admitted his car was "a dream" to drive. He said: "I saw there was a safety car at the very beginning, we had a very good start which was very important as behind me there was a crash.
"I saw a Ferrari had crashed, but I was not sure who it was but halfway through the race I looked at the (timing) tower to see where the others are and I saw the car that was still racing was Felipe, so I assumed Fernando was not racing any more.
"The guys have pushed so hard over the last couple of months and when you dream at night you dream about being able to drive a car like that, the balance was fantastic and I was enjoying every lap, which I think was why we had such a big gap to the others and I am very happy."