Scott McLaughlin was one of the few primary drivers to start the race, jumping Will Davison in the pole-sitting Tickford car on the run to Turn 1.
The series champion was then able to dominate the first stint, pulling 8s over Will Davison, as Anton De Pasquale made early progress against the other co-drivers to move into third.
McLaughlin handed his car over to Tim Slade on Lap 18, Cam Waters taking over from Davison a few laps later. That saw the #17's lead swiftly evaporate, Waters working his way to the back of Slade as he settled into the second stint.
The lead changed hands for the first time on Lap 33, as the field scrambled into the lane due to a first safety car of the race.
It was Jamie Whincup who sparked the caution, the seven-time series champion hitting the wall at The Cutting while battling Brodie Kostecki for fourth place.
The #6 Mustang managed to get out of the pits faster than the #17, handing Waters the lead for the balance of the second stint.
A second caution on Lap 51, after Jordan Boys hit the wall at Murray's changed things again. There was another scramble for the pits, Davison taking back over the #6 as McLaughlin hopped aboard the #17.
To further complicate things there was a short burst of rain on top of the Mountain right as the race went green, not enough to need wets but difficult to navigate on slicks.
The conditions suited van Gisbergen to a tee, the Kiwi passing McLaughlin for second at Forrest's Elbow before grabbing the lead from Davison at Hell Corner.
McLaughlin, meanwhile, struggled in the conditions, dropping back to fifth as his teammate Fabian Coulthard moved into second.
As conditions improved McLaughlin came back into the game, a mistake from Kostecki on Lap 59 helping him back into fourth.
As the stint wore on van Gisbergen stretched his advantage to around 5s, until Lap 74 when Coulthard pitted for new front brake rotors and to hand over to D'Alberto.
Van Gisbergen and Davison followed suit a lap later, both taking on new rotors as Garth Tander took over the #97, with Davison jumping D'Alberto in the process.
McLaughlin then completed the round of stops for the front-runners a lap later again, Slade hopping back in the car and coming out in second, 5s behind Tander.
It's been a shocker for Brad Jones Racing, meanwhile, starting with the Macauley Jones/Tim Blanchard entry copping a mechanical flag, followed by a time penalty for not obeying the flag, for a door that wouldn't stay closed.
Then there was the Boys' crash that took the #14 car out of the race, followed a few laps later by a misfire for the #8 car that has seen it make a number of trips into the garage.