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It was the most competitive 10,000m track race run in Dunedin for 40 years.
At the 5km mark there were still five runners in contention and after 13 of the 25 laps at the Caledonian Ground the field had been reduced to three.
Only two runners were left in the last five laps and they battled it out to the line with only 0.01sec separating them at the finish.
Davidson (28) surged to the front with 2m left to win in 31min 11.69sec from Daniel Balchin (Caversham) 31min 11.70sec and Dougal Thorburn (Ariki) 31min 43.54sec. The last lap was run in 62sec.
Davidson and Balchin (21) were together at the bell and the Caversham runner made his bid when he burst clear at the 300m mark.
"I knew that Daniel would beat me if it was a 1500m race," Davidson said. "I just hoped that his legs would be tired and I might sneak past him."
Davidson attacked round the top bend and it was a neck-and-neck battle up the final straight.
Davidson caught Balchin with 30m left and edged ahead in the last 2m.
"My legs ran out on me in the last 30m," Balchin said. "I went too early."
Davidson, who represented Otago when he was a medical student in Dunedin, is studying in Christchurch to become a plastic surgeon. He took control of the 19-strong field from the start, with a solid first lap of 75sec.
After two laps there were only six of the 19 starters in the front bunch.
"I knew that Daniel had a strong finish and I wanted to keep the pace going, to tire him out," Davidson said.
Davidson, and another doctor, Dougal Thorburn (30), took turns pace-making as the front bunch kept a steady pace between 75sec and 78sec a lap.
After seven laps, Davidson decided to let Balchin take his turn at the front and the Caversham runner slowed the pace to 81, 83 and 86sec for the next three laps.
That was too slow for Davidson and Thorburn and they gingered up the pace with two 70sec laps, which left only Davidson, Balchin and Thorburn in contention after 13 of the 25 laps.
Over the next seven laps Davidson and Thorburn kept up the pressure with a series of burners that tested the stamina of Balchin.
Davidson's stinging burner down the back straight on the 20th lap was too much for Thorburn and the field was reduced to two.
Davidson attacked in the next four laps, surging in the straights and relaxing around the bends On the penultimate lap, he put in a stinging 65sec lap but the struggling Balchin still hung on.
Alex Gorrie (Canterbury University) won the junior men's title in 32min 21.69sec, from Jonah Smith (Leith) 35min 53.64sec.
Alan Funnell (Leith) was first home in the masters men aged 35 to 39 grade in 35min 40.05sec.
Marie Sleeman (Caversham) won the women's over-50 title in 42min 32.52se.
Marc Boulle (Leith) was the first man over 50 in 42min 12.19sec.
Rebecca Wardell (Christchurch Old Boys), who competed in the heptathlon at the Beijing Olympics, won the women's javelin (38.88m) and shot put (13.85m).
Sam Bremer (Hill City), who was third in the senior boys road race at the New Zealand secondary schools championships in Wellington, won the boys aged 15 and 16 1500m, in 4min 17.65sec.
Bill Kenny (Leith) broke the Otago men's over-75 1500m record by 4sec, in 6min 54.98sec.
Andrew Whyte (Hill City) won the men's sprint double with his 100m (11.26sec) and 200m (22.10sec).
Anna Smythe (Hill City), who won the New Zealand title two years ago, made her debut for the season when she won the women's 100m in 12.02sec.