Billy Joe Saunders produced another below-par display but did enough to ensure Martin Murray will forever be a world title bridesmaid.
The St Helens man fell short in his fifth and surely final attempt at the highest level as Saunders held on to his belt behind closed doors in London.
Saunders was in control throughout but struggled to move out of first gear and failed to deliver on his promise of a statement victory.
He did enough to convince the judges however who gave him the nod via scores of 120-109 (twice) and 118-110.
In his previous world title challenges, Murray could justifiably claim to have been robbed against Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez at middleweight before running into a prime Gennady Golovkin.
He also dropped a tight decision against Arthur Abraham before defeat by Hassan N’Dam two years ago looked to have sent him into retirement.
But he was handed a surprise shot at Saunders after the Traveller saw a showdown with Canelo Alvarez cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.
And Murray vowed to make it fifth time lucky in tribute to his late trainer Oliver Harrison who lost his battle with cancer last year.
Saunders meanwhile was making the second defence of his title having won the vacant strap with a lacklustre win over Shefat Isufi and followed it up with an equally lacklustre win over Marcelo Estaban Coceres.
It was Saunders who edged a quiet first round as Murray looked to counter.
The champion was warned for using his head in the second session but it was he who landed the best shot of the round with a short left hook.
Murray landed to the body in the third but was caught by an uppercut in response. The same shot landed again as Saunders relaxed into an early advantage.
Murray slipped to the canvas in the fourth round as he came under ever-increasing pressure.
And the challenger was looking short of answers in the fifth but did have some success to the body as the fight reached the halfway stage.
Saunders had taken his foot off the gas by the seventh round but Murray was unable to stamp his authority on the fight.
The champion was warned for hitting below the belt in the eighth as Murray finally enjoyed some belated success.
Saunders responded by increasing the tempo in the ninth stanza to increase his lead.
And he found a home for his uppercut in the 10th before cruising through the final six minutes.