As cloud cover built over the Sepang circuit and a thunderstorm went off in the distance, Tom Sykes made the most of his pole position to etch out an early advantage over the chasing pack.
The Kawasaki rider, who struggled in the weekend's earlier practice sessions, showed flying pace as he pulled away from Chaz Davies and Jonathan Rea. Both chasers made brilliant starts to jump into the top three from sixth and seventh respectively on the grid.
At the front Sykes put in a blistering first half of the race to lead by 3.2s while Davies was holding onto second but only marginally as Rea closed right up on his rear tyre.
Rea eventually made his move on Davies with six to go, sliding up the inside of the Ducati rider at Turn 15. However, going in too lot, he ran it wide and gifted the position back to the Welshman.
They were soon running first and second as Sykes hit disaster. Using too much tyre in the opening half of the 16-lap race, the former World Champion suddenly lost grip and speed and his three second lead was negated in just two laps.
First Davies and then Rea overtook the Brit, who was running in the 2:08s while those ahead were in the 2:06s.
With Sykes out of the running, Davies and Rea fought hard for the race win. Rea made his move with just corners remaining only for Davies to come back at him. However, the Championship leader was not done and cut back inside to win the race by 0.121s over Davies.
Adding to Sykes' misery he was also overtaken by Max Biaggi, who began his final WSBK Sunday with a podium finish, and Sylvain Guintoli. They were 10.6s and 15.4s behind the race winner.
Sykes crossed the line in fifth place ahead of Alex Lowes, Leon Haslam and Matteo Baiocco.
1 REA Jonathan Kawasaki ZX-10R
2 DAVIES Chaz Ducati Panigale R 0.121
3 BIAGGI Max Aprilia RSV4 RF 10.695
4 GUINTOLI Sylvain Honda CBR1000RR SP 15.433
5 SYKES Tom Kawasaki ZX-10R 17.983
6 LOWES Alex Suzuki GSX-R1000 23.758
7 HASLAM Leon Aprilia RSV4 RF 24.854
8 BAIOCCO Matteo Ducati Panigale R 28.306
9 CANEPA Niccolò Ducati Panigale R 31.098
10 TORRES Jordi Aprilia RSV4 RF 34.105
11 SALOM David Kawasaki ZX-10R 37.107
12 DE PUNIET Randy Suzuki GSX-R1000 37.378
13 CAMIER Leon MV Agusta F4 RR 39.656
14 RAMOS Román Kawasaki ZX-10R 43.451
15 MERCADO Leandro Ducati Panigale R 48.476
16 PONSSON Christophe Kawasaki ZX-10R 61.166
17 RIZMAYER Gábor BMW S1000 RR 84.006
18 PHILLIS Alex Kawasaki ZX-10R 91.093
19 TOTH Imre BMW S1000 RR 122.124 31.031
RT VIZZIELLO Gianluca Kawasaki ZX-10R 9 Laps
RT VD MARK Michael Honda CBR1000RR SP 9 Laps