Hot favourite Andy Dufresne could finish only third as Henry de Bromhead's outsider Jason The Militant fought off Beacon Edge in a thrilling climax to the Paddy Power Betting Shop Novice Hurdle at Naas.
Having bounced back from an odds-on defeat at Navan with a narrow victory in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown, the Gordon Elliott-trained Andy Dufresne was the 6/5 market leader to double his Grade Two tally in the hands of Mark Walsh.
However, while he travelled well for much of the two-mile contest, his finishing effort was a little lacklustre - and he had to make do with minor honours.
De Bromhead's 25-1 shot Jason The Militant was in front from the off under Rachael Blackmore, with Beacon Edge and Denis O'Regan always his closest pursuers.
A mistake from Beacon Edge at the final obstacle put the latter on the back foot -and although he battled back bravely to almost join Jason The Militant on the line, the judge confirmed De Bromhead's charge had held on by a nose.
De Bromhead said: "We were disappointed with him at Leopardstown last time, but I think he just loves the soft ground.
"I pulled him out (of Cheltenham), but it's brilliant to get this. We'll look for something wherever there is proper soft ground."
JP McManus looks to have a live Grand National candidate on his hands after Any Second Now (3/1) confirmed his status as a leading contender for Aintree with victory in the Grade Three WhatOddsPaddy? Chase - a race that trainer Ted Walsh had previously won with subsequent National winner Papillon and his Aintree third, Seabass.
Bidding for his first win since landing the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, Any Second Now was positioned in the slipstream of last year's winner Cadmium for much of the two-mile journey, before taking over the lead in the home straight.
With the front-running Cadmium weakening tamely out of contention, 5/2 favourite Articulum emerged as the biggest threat, but Walsh's runner dug deep in the testing conditions to score by a length and a quarter in the hands of Mark Walsh.
Sky Bet cut the winner to 12/1 for Aintree, making him second-favourite behind dual winner Tiger Roll at 4/1.
"He travelled well and jumped well, and if he runs as well as Seabass (at Aintree), I'll be delighted," said the Kill handler. "He was nicely treated with 11st 1lb on his back. The only fence he reached for was the last, and Mark was delighted with him.
"It's a good prep for Aintree. Whether he's good enough or not, only time will tell. He's going there in a good frame of mind and he gets the trip. If you're not in you can't win!
"He won a Grade Two hurdle at Punchestown as a novice. He's a classy enough horse, and the soft ground suited him as well."
Mark Walsh and McManus were soon on the mark again when Castle Oliver completed his hat-trick in the Paddy Power Road To Cheltenham Novice Handicap Chase.
Successful at Fairyhouse and Down Royal since the turn of the year, Padraig Roche's inmate was an 8/1 shot to add to his tally in this 50,000 contest - and stayed on well from the final obstacle to prevail by three and a half lengths.
"Mark said they were going a bit faster today than his previous two races, and he made a few mistakes," said Roche.
"He did well to get back into it. We put him in the Leinster National back here in a couple of weeks, and we'll see what JP and Frank (Berry, racing manager) want to do."
Instant Return may have earned himself a place in Jessica Harrington's small but select Cheltenham team after justifying 5/2 favouritism in the Panoramic Restaurant At Naas Handicap Hurdle under Paddy Kennedy.
Paddy Power cut the winner to 16/1 from 25/1 for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Prestbury Park.