Politologue had to dig deep to hold Charbel and give trainer Paul Nicholls a sixth success in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot.
The seven-year-old grey took a definite advantage at the second last fence but was made to work by the runner-up, who kept the deficit to half a length at the line.
Politologue was always travelling comfortably for Sam Twiston-Davies as Gold Present made the running and joined the leader at the third-last.
It looked like the 5-4 favourite might run out a cosy winner, but he had to be ridden out to land the Grade Two spoils.
Nicholls was at Haydock, where he told ITV Racing: “He just frightens you to death because he travelled so well and the minute he hits the front he idles.
“It’s his first run of the season, but he didn’t want for fitness because he was ready. He could have done with a tow in the race a little bit longer.
“He was giving 7lb to the second horse. All he’ll do is keep improving. The better the race, the better he is.
“I don’t know about the King George. All the way through that race he showed so much pace. You just have to question whether his forte is going to be stamina or whether he’s got plenty of speed.
“He’s confusing me because he does travel and jump so well in his races.
“He will probably travel as long as you want, even over three miles. Kempton is a flat track and would probably suit him and not commit too soon on him.
“He’d turned into the straight at Kempton travelling really well. It’s just if he’s got that stamina over three. I just don’t know.”
Owner John Hales is eager to go for the King George and said: “I was more worried than I will be on Boxing Day. The pressure is on you and it would have been a total failure if he had been second and the press would have given him a bad time.
“I would have thought two-mile-five around here is similar to three miles at Kempton. They will go quicker at Kempton which he wants to do. He pulled himself to the front today.
“It (King George) is now (the plan) after that, but I’ve got to speak to Paul. I think we have got a great chance. I had a good bet on him for the King George on the way down as if he won today, he would be shortened.
“The dream is ask me after the King George as if he shows me he gets the three miles and does really well, then I will do everything I possibly can to persuade Paul to go to the race at Cheltenham at the end of January and let’s see.
“I’ve won everything else I want to win and I’ve got the Grand National at home – there is a space waiting for the Gold Cup.”
Bailey said: “I am delighted with him. I’m just annoyed he got it wrong at the last, but he had to go for a long one and he didn’t get it and it was as simple as that.
“I long to step him up and I will step him up as three miles is where we want to go. I’m now regretting I didn’t make an entry in the King George, but that is easy in hindsight.
“He is a horse that will progress over three miles. That was the furthest he has been and he has improved so much.
“We were standing in March with a horse that was going nowhere. He has had a back operation and that has made a big difference and a lot has gone on behind the scenes.
“A lot of work and schooling has gone into him to get him back. We will find somewhere and we are not in a rush. We would love to take him over to Ireland, but it would be a spring campaign not a winter one.”