(CNN) -- Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso will battle it out for the Formula One title at the final race in Brazil after Lewis Hamilton's victory in Texas ensured the German must wait for his third successive championship crown.
Hamilton secured back-to-back victories at the United States Grand Prix in front of a capacity crowd of 135,000, overtaking Red Bull's Vettel on lap 42 of 56 in Austin and relegating the 25-year-old to second in his 100th F1 race.
Alonso kept his title dream alive by finishing third, and gained a controversial place on the grid before the race after teammate Felipe Massa broke the seal on his Ferrari's gearbox and took a five place penalty.
It all points towards a dramatic climax in Sao Paulo, where Vettel will defend a 13-point lead over his Spanish rival, needing to finish fourth or higher to retain the world championship.
The race marked a triumphant return to the United States for Formula One after an absence of five years, with drivers and pundits impressed with the show put on at the newly built Circuit of the Americas.
Though he didn't clinch the drivers' championship crown, Vettel's performance did ensure Red Bull won the constructors' championship for the third time in a row.
But the German, who was heard to be angry on the team radio after Hamilton passed him, blamed Force India backmarker Narain Karthikeyan for slowing him down at a critical moment of the race.
"I wasn't too happy to send a nice big invitation to Lewis when I had to go through Karthikeyan," he said.
"He was right behind in the DRS zone. He took that opportunity, fair enough, down the straight and he passed me. I tried to defend, but I knew he would have so much more speed.
"I was obviously not too happy. Lewis had one chance and he took it. After that I tried to stay with him, but there wasn't much between us."
Vettel got to the first corner in front of the chasing pack off the grid and his teammate Mark Webber was able to steal a place on Hamilton and move into second.
But after Webber retired with mechanical failure on lap 17 Hamilton began stalking Vettel until he engaged his DRS boost to flick past the German 14 laps from home, the pair's cars only a matter of inches apart.
Alonso jumped a place after Ferrari's decision to invoke a five-place grid penalty for Felipe Massa, which meant he switched from the dusty, slower portion of the track to the clean side.
The difference was clear as Alonso charged round the outside and gained three places going into the first corner. The Spaniard also benefited from Webber's retirement as he held on to third place.
Massa battled his way up to fourth place while Hamilton's McLaren teammate Jenson Button claimed fifth.
Hamilton, who will end his long association with McLaren after the final race of the campaign in Brazil, was elated with his victory, his second successive triumph in the States after winning the last US GP at Indianapolis in 2007.
"First-time winner! I'm so happy," he said. "The fans were amazing, thank you. It was such a warm welcome and one of the best, if not the best, race of the year -- especially for me and the team.
"It's been a long time since we had a win. I'm so proud of the team and grateful for the support we've had."