With the morning withdrawal of Supasundae and the late defection of Samcro, former champion hurdler Faugheen appeared to face a straightforward task.
Ruby Walsh set out to make all on 2-5 shot Faugheen, who was last seen winning over three miles at Punchestown and was dropping back to two this time.
Rachael Blackmore kept him honest on Tombstone, the only one of the four eventual runners not trained by Willie Mullins, but he dropped away before the turn into the straight.
Just when Faugheen looked set to go clear though, Sharjah, a Galway Hurdle winner but beaten behind Bedrock and Samcro at Down Royal, cruised past him.
“The other two (Faugheen and Tombstone) took each other on up front and maybe galloped each other into the ground, luckily we had one in behind to take advantage,” said Mullins.
“There were no hurdles down the back to get a breather and the two horses up front were at it the whole time. Paul (Townend) told me that he thought he’d win leaving the backstraight which is a long way out for someone to say that.
“Sharjah done a lot for the season and after his run at Down Royal I was wondering should we give him a break but after that I’d say that we will head on to Christmas with him."
Townend said: “That was pretty straightforward for a Grade One.
“I travelled well the whole way, got the feeling Ruby was in a bit of trouble when I was still doing it well and I had fitness on my side.
“The ease of the win surprised me a bit, but he promised to win a big one a few times last season. I wouldn’t write Faugheen off.”