24 Nov 2018

SVG win sets up thrilling finale

8:44 pm on 24 November 2018

The stage is set for a nail biting Supercars series finish after Shane van Gisbergen snatched a last gasp win over title rival and fellow New Zealand driver Scott McLaughlin in the season finale's opening 250km race in Newcastle.

Shane van Gisbergen celebrates his race win in Newcastle.

Shane van Gisbergen celebrates his race win in Newcastle. Photo: Edgephotographics/Photosport

Holden's van Gisbergen cut McLaughlin's series lead to just two points with one race left after overtaking the Ford gun - who was battling fuel dramas - on the final lap and claiming line honours by almost four seconds.

The 2019 title will now be decided by Sunday's 95-lap race on the tough 2.6km street circuit.

Holden's David Reynolds was third in Saturday's opening 95-lap race.

"What a race. That sets up tomorrow. I can't wait," a buzzing van Gisbergen said.

"It's now winner takes all."

Aiming for his maiden Supercars title, McLaughlin came into the final round with just a 14-point championship lead over van Gisbergen to ensure the closest season finish in a decade.

But it got even closer thanks to van Gisbergen's late heroics as fellow Kiwi McLaughlin tried to nurse his ailing Ford around the final laps.

"She is on for tomorrow. It is basically whoever finishes in front of each other wins," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin tried to get it done without his wingman Fabian Coulthard after his teammate smashed into the wall at turn one on lap 42, prompting a safety car.

Shane van Gisbergen

Shane van Gisbergen Photo: Photosport

Nick Percat narrowly avoided spearing into Coulthard but had one side of his Holden's bodywork shaved off like a can opener by the prone Falcon.

But the biggest victim was the ever popular Craig Lowndes.

In the final round of his stellar 22-year career as a full-time driver, Lowndes's race was all but over when Holden's Scott Pye made contact in a frenzied pit lane after Coulthard prompted the safety car.

To make matters worse, Ford's Mark Winterbottom then dragged a tyre that was about to be fitted on Lowndes' Commodore down pit lane prompting the veteran to lose his cool.

Lowndes dropped his trademark smile when he stormed into his garage following the pit lane incidents.

He finished last in the 23-strong field with three drivers failing to finish.

The game changer in Saturday's race appeared to come when Coulthard hit the wall.

After teams pitted in the frenzied reaction to the safety car, McLaughlin emerged with the race lead and didn't appear threatened until fuel dramas let van Gisbergen pounce.

McLaughlin is still hoping to exorcise his Newcastle demons.

Last year McLaughlin appeared to have the championship in the bag with a 78 point lead and grabbing pole for the final race, only to see Whincup come from the clouds to win a record seventh drivers' title.