Britain's 'Special One' Kell Brook (38-2) ground out a unanimous points win over Michael Zerafa (25-3) in their WBA super-welterweight final eliminator at Sheffield Arena.
The former IBF World welterweight champion Brook, 32, started well and bloodied the nose of his Australian opponent - whose two previous losses were at middleweight - in the opening round.
But, in his first fight since March, he did not continue that dominance and was briefly rattled by Zerafa in the ninth, showing signs of slowing down in the championship rounds and ring rust.
The judges scored it unanimously at 118-110, 119-109 and 117-111 to the Sheffield fighter, who is now in line for a shot at WBA 'Regular' champion Brian Carlos Castano (15-0) or 'Super' champion Jarrett Hurd (23-0), who only fought last week when he destroyed former British middleweight champion Jason Welborn in four-rounds on the Wilder-Fury undercard in LA.
Brook weighed in 3lbs lighter than his travelling opponent, closer to welterweight.
Brook hinted at having an off night when he explained his performance, saying: "Normally I'm sharp but I couldn't let that right hand go.
"In training I've been exceptional but at least I've got the win."
His new trainer John Fewkes said: "People have big expectations of Kell but, for me, he boxed well. He came through 12 rounds and the things we were working on worked. The reason he got hit too much was because he was trying too hard."
Promoter Eddie Hearn cheekily added: "Kell knows that was below par. If I was Amir Khan, I'd be on the phone now."
Bitter rival Amir Khan, who Brook has been chasig a fight with for years, is rumoured to be fighting WBO World welterweight champion Terence Crawford next.
Brook further affirmed his interest in the showdown with Khan, "I want the Khan fight. It's now or never."
Cheif support saw Jono Carroll's (16-0-1) shot at Tevin Farmer's IBF World super-featherweight title postponed after he was held to a draw by Guillaume Frenois (46-1-1).
The two super-featherweight southpaws were bidding for the right to become the mandatory challenger for Tevin Farmer (27-4-1).
Dubliner Carroll, 26, had won all 16 of his previous fights, while 35-year-old Frenois had lost only one of his previous 47.
The judges called it 115-113 in favour of Frenois, 115-113 for Carroll and 114-114 split down the middle.
It means that his intended dream fight with IBF King Farmer will now have to wait until later in 2019.
The rest of the action saw Sheffield's Kid Galahad maintain his 100% record with his 26th career victory in a featherweight contest with Brayan Mairena.
The 28-year-old, who will fight the winner of the IBF title fight between Josh Warrington and Carl Frampton on 22 December, won all eight rounds against the Nicaraguan.
Liverpool's Anthony Fowler needed only 93 seconds to beat Argentina's Jose Carlos Paz. Fowler, 27, sent Paz to his knees with a crunching left hook to the ribs to make it nine wins out of nine, eight of which have been by knockout.
Unbeaten Sunderland fighter Josh Kelly's welterweight clash with Russia's David Avanesyan was postponed after Kelly was taken ill on the morning of the fight.