British middleweight Martin Murray came agonisingly close to clinching a world title as a pulsating bout with WBA champion Felix Sturm ended in a draw.
After 12 tight rounds in Mannheim, Germany, one judge awarded the fight 116-112 to Sturm, another 115-113 to Murray and the third scored it 114-114.
The draw means Germany's Sturm retains his WBA title, but Murray remains unbeaten in 24 professional fights.
Murray dominated the middle rounds but Sturm hit back with a late barrage.
"We thought we'd won but you're in Germany, in his own backyard," said Murray, who had only once before fought 12 full rounds.
"We've always known I'm world class, I just needed that chance. I've shown it today, I took a major step up in class but I belong at that level.
MURRAY'S PRO CAREER
- Age: 29
- Fights: 24
- Won: 23
- Drawn: 1
- Lost: 0
- KOs: 10
"I could feel him going and a couple more rounds and I would have had him."
two-weight world champion Ricky Hatton
, added: "I'm very proud of him - I've always said he was world class.
"Personally I thought he won it, but we are in Germany. We'll be back. The Martin Murray story isn't over."
Murray, who captured the British title by
beating Nick Blackwell in June
, produced the performance of his career to match Sturm punch for punch.
After a cagey first two rounds, the St Helens boxer started to land his shots in the third, opening a cut underneath Sturm's left eye.
Sturm used his experience to keep Murray at bay with a succession of jabs but in the eighth round, Murray landed a succession of shots to leave the German looking visibly shaken.
The fight remained on a knife-edge through the next four rounds until Sturm, 32, caught the judges' eyes with a flurry of punches just before the final bell.
Murray was awarded the fight 115-113 by American judge Ted Gimza but, with Jean-Francois Toupin scoring it 116-112 for Sturm and Pasquale Procopio unable to split the pair, he was left to hope for a rematch.