A faller at the first in the Aintree National two weeks ago, he could be spotted travelling noticeably well on the final circuit as Sam Twiston-Davies nudged him into contention.
It was Twiston-Davies’ father, Nigel, who looked to have the race won with Cogry who went clear under Jamie Bargary despite only finishing second in the West Wales National six days ago.
But as the pair duelled for the line, Vicente (9-1 joint-favourite), who was bought by Trevor Hemmings before Aintree as a replacement for the ill-fated Many Clouds, prevailed by a neck.
Twiston-Davies snr was also third with the veteran Benbens, with Alvarado placed in the race again in fourth.
“Paul had him primed for the National, but sadly it didn’t go to plan so he said he’d bring him here and it’s worked out great,” said the winning rider. “He’s a very brave horse, he’s tried very hard and saved my day.
“Paul is one of the best trainers in the country, it doesn’t matter what standard of horse we’ve got, he finds a way to win with them.”
Twiston-Davies and Nicholls were only narrowly touched off in the Scottish Champion Hurdle with Zubayr, and with Nicky Henderson’s lead in the trainers’ championship now under £200,000, that valuable prize could look crucial next week.
Nicholls said: “Of course we can still win it, but everything will need to go right and we’ve had a couple of results today, like Zubayr, which would have made a difference.
“Luck hasn’t been with Sam today.
“Nicky’s had a fantastic season with his Grade One horses, and so have we – we won’t give up until the last day.
“Sam is part of a big team, we’ve got a lot of good jockeys and he heads them, he’ll be with us a long time.”
Hemmings said: “I just need to win the Irish and the Welsh now.
“I bought him because we lost Many Clouds and I didn’t have a runner in the National.”
Hemmings, who has won three Grand Nationals at Aintree with Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds, added: “Vicente only came because he fell in the big one at Aintree and he was already entered.
“Sam kept the ride because he’d won on him previously. We went with lady luck and the answer was conclusive.
“Sam might have only just got there, but that was enough!
“When they win like that it’s an excitement you can’t really explain to anyone else, it’s happening to you. I’m sure we’ll head back to Aintree next year but obviously I’ll listen to my trainer, if I hadn’t we wouldn’t be here today.
“This compares to winning at Aintree, anything when you have success around it always is great.”
Gold Cup-winning jockey Nico de Boinville was taken to hospital for assessment after a first-fence fall from Sugar Baron.
Chesterfield nailed Zubayr right on the line to win the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle and provide trainer Seamus Mullins and jockey Danny Sampson with the biggest wins of their careers.
For Sampson, a 7lb conditional, it was just a seventh success and one of those came on the same horse at the Aintree Grand National.
Sent off at 12-1 following an 11lb rise, he looked booked for second with Zubayr poised for the in-form Paul Nicholls.
However, Zubayr got in tight to the last and Chesterfield stuck on gamely to his task to win by a short head, with Mohaayed third and Vosne Romanee fourth.
Sampson said: “ It feels a bit surreal. You can’t do anything without the horse, though.
“I just feel so thankful to everyone. I wasn’t even sure I’d won crossing the line.”
Cloudy Dream (11-4) was rewarded for good runs at both Cheltenham and Aintree when pouncing late to beat Theinval in the Jordan Electric Ltd Future Champions Novices’ Chase.
Malcolm Jefferson’s grey was second in the Arkle to Altior and at Aintree to Flying Angel, who lost his chance here with a bad blunder down the back straight.
Theinval appeared to have matters under control approaching the last but he was slow at it, allowing Brian Hughes to pounce.