Buveur D'Air became the first horse since Hardy Eustace to retain the Champion Hurdle, but the Nicky Henderson-trained star was made to work by Melon, who ran a huge race in defeat, but it was the Seven Barrows raider that handed favourite backers their third win on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Former champion Faugheen was the pick of the Willie Mullins' string, but while Ruby Walsh wanted to get an uncontested lead, the Henderson camp were not obliging as outsider Charli Parcs hassled the second favourite for the lead, and Walsh had to put up with having a partner on the front end.
While that was taking place at the front, Barry Geraghty stalked the front two on board 4/6 favourite Buveur D'Air, and he made an uncharacteristic jumping error down the back straight, but Geraghty held last year's winner together, and he look to move into contention as they came down the hill.
With Geraghty not wanting to get in front too soon, as stablemate Charli Parcs weakened, and Faugheen started to falter, it gave the chance for Melon to sneak up the inside, and it was left for the Mullins second string and Buveur D'Air to fight it out at the finish.
Melon had narrowly got his head in front, but with the pair jumping upsides at the last, it was Buveur D'Air that just managed to find more for pressure, and he fended off a brave Melon by a neck, with Mick Jazz staying on well for third place in a memorable renewal.
15:30 Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)
1.Buveur D'Air - N Henderson - B Geraghty - 4/6f
2.Melon - W Mullins - P Townend - 7/1
3.Mick Jazz - G Elliott - D Russell - 25/1