Tony Bellew survived a nasty cut to jump a step closer to a world title shot with a unanimous decision win over Argentina's Roberto Bolonti in Nottingham.
The fiery Liverpudlian was seeking to build on his recent win over Edison Miranda as he looks to earn a second bid for world honours.
Bellew had shown his world title credentials in a premature and unsuccessful shot at Nathan Cleverly's WBO light-heavyweight title last year and has been rebuilding towards another crack since then.
He continued that progress at the Capital FM Arena with a solid win over Bolonti despite suffering a nasty third-round cut above the right eye which had initially looked potentially catastrophic to his hopes.
The scrap with Bolonti was essentially an eliminator of sorts for the WBC crown, with the body's inconsequential 'silver' belt on the line.
Evertonian Bellew, 29, had a record of 18-1 (12KO wins) heading into the bout while 33-year-old Bolonti (30-1, 19KO wins) was boxing outside Argentina for the first time.
Bellew provided the early pressure and landed a left which wobbled Bolonti mid-round. A right to the top of the head then put Bolonti down, though the South American may have lost his footing. He beat Victor Loughlin's count and survived the round as Bellew failed to capitalise, despite landing a big right.
The second round was all Bellew until a cheeky right from Bolonti gave him food for thought.
A left hook put Bolonti down in the third but again he rose quickly with a clear head. He was certainly more wary as a result but things threatened to turn when Bellew suffered a bad cut over the right eye, thought to be from a Bolonti left hook.
The wound was far from superficial as blood flowed into the Englishman's right eye but Bellew at least had Mick Williamson, a renowned cutsman, in his corner.
A left hook to the body by Bellew punctuated a quieter fifth round with the Briton remaining patient safe in the knowledge Williamson had worked his magic on the cut.
Bellew landed a left uppercut in the ninth which was the best shot of the middle rounds while a left hook to the mid-section was correctly adjudged to have been too low.
A right uppercut seemed to hurt Bolonti and Bellew piled in, landing combinations for the first time in several rounds.
While the pace was slow and the action fractured, Bellew was winning the rounds with relative ease. Another uppercut in the 10th led to another aggressive flurry but again Bolonti held it together.
At the final bell the fighters embraced, with both men claiming to have won. But the victory was clearly Bellew's, with scores of 120-106, 119-107 and 120-106.
Bellew said: "I've got the best cutsman in the game in Mick Williamson so I wasn't too worried about the cut.
"He (Bolonti) is tough and he showed he had a great chin. I'm told the cut's a bad one and looks nasty but this is boxing, it happens.
"I don't think it's as bad as it looks.
"I was going for the knockout but it is what it is."