MIN the merciless ran his rivals into the ground with a bold front-running display in the Ryanair.
Willie Mullins multiple Grade 1 winner jumped like a buck and had enough up his sleeve to repel the late challenge of outsider Saint Calvados.
He has been a 'nearly' horse at the Festival in recent years, finishing second in the Supreme and Champion Chase to Altior before a below-par fifth last year.
But he was cherry ripe this time around and was given a positive ride from flag fall by Paul Townend.
The nine-year-old got himself into a beautiful rhythm over his obstacles, while big market rival A Plus Tard was far from fluent throughout.
The pair locked horns turning in, but the main challenge came from a surprising source as 16-1 poke Saint Calvados tried to burrow up Min's inner under Gavin Sheehan.
But the winner was always holding on, with a neck between the pair at the line with A Plus Tard a little disappointing back in third.
Mullins said: "Watching him jump today, he was fantastic through the air.
"When he needed jumps he got them and he put the others under pressure.
"It got a little worrying when Saint Calvados came up the inside but I think he was always doing enough to hold on.
"I wondered if he would just get the trip around here, but it appears to be his optimum."
Winning rider Paul Townend suffered a frustrating start to the meeting, but he was delighted to get a second Grade 1 on the board.
He said: "We got jumping really well and it's great for the horse to have his day here.
"He is a great horse for the yard, he goes to all the big festivals and always run a good race.
"We got into a lovely rhythm and he was really enjoying himself. We were all out at the line but we got there."
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