Anthony Crolla put himself in line for a world title shot after beating Gavin Rees by majority decision in Bolton on Saturday night.
The New Moston warrior edged an enthralled contest and outworked the former world champion down the stretch to pick up the vacant WBO inter-continental lightweight title.
Rees started the stronger but the busy Crolla worked his way into the fight and pulled off a stunning win with two judges scoring it in his favour 116-113, 115-113 with the third scoring it a draw.
Crolla, rarely in a dull fight, allowed Rees to take the first two rounds as the Welshman set a fast tempo, loading up on his shots and landing hurtful left hooks.
But Crolla started to hit back more in the third and his overhand right caught Rees on several occasions, opening up a nick by the left eye.
Crolla's combinations were as stylish as ever but Rees' shots appeared to be having more of an effect, more often than not ending the closer exchanges with a decisive shot.
The rounds were not easy to score with Rees's rugged style not pleasing on theye while Crolla continued to pour forward with landing any heavy shots of note, bar an occasional right over the top.
The fifth was a fabulous round that saw both swinging from the seats while the sixth was a quieter affair, Rees blowing the harder of the two.
Rees was fortunate not to be penalised for hitting his defenceless opponent round the back of the head on two separate occasions, but he still appeared to on top heading into the championship rounds.
However, Crolla continued to up the intensity and although it was a clash of heads that opened up another cut on Rees' right eyebrow, the Mancunian took the eighth and ninth rounds to bring the crowd back to life.
Rees kept himself in it by throwing a hard left lead, sometimes stopping Crolla in his tracks, but he appeared dog-tired in the 10th with his arms very low.
Considering the close nature of the fight it was surprising that Rees went on his bike in the 11th, larking around and showboating and practically gifting the session to Crolla.
Both needed a big finale and it was crucially won by Crolla, who despite being caught late on by a left hook landed enough to take it and sure he would edge the result on two of the three cards.Tags: Anthony Crolla , photos , Gavin Rees , Crolla-Rees , Crolla vs Rees