Having earned his tour card as a result of the 2010 Challenge Tour rankings, the Scot was only able to compete in one event last year before contracting a debilitating virus. It also left him in a weakened state on the golf course, and he has had to return to the Challenge Tour this season to start again from scratch.
He made his seventh start of 2012 on the second tier at Golf Club Varese in northern Italy, a final round three-under-par 67 taking him to 17 under par and one shot ahead of Daniel Vancsik. The Argentine produced a magnificent round of 64 to pile the pressure on Russell, who also had compatriot Andrew McArthur for company at the top of the rankings, a round of 70 leaving him with a share of fifth place.
Russell began yesterday three shots clear, and a birdie at the first helped settle the nerves before he picked up another shot at the fourth. A bogey at the 14th gave Vancsik hope of overhauling the Scot, but Russell birdied the 15th and parred his way home, calmly holing a four-foot putt at the last for victory.
"I felt pretty good standing over it," said Russell, who played on the European Tour between 1996 and 2006. "I made a nice putt at the 15th from about six feet for par, so I didn't feel like I was going to miss.
"I played pretty well. You're always trying to win. That's why we practise hard. Finishing second or third is nice but we're trying to win every week. Does it make up for missing last season? Not really, because it's one tournament and I missed a whole year. But it helps.
"I've felt it coming the last few weeks. I played nicely in Saint-Omer for a spell and in Madeira I played well. I had an old caddie friend who caddies for Gregory Havret on my bag and he told me to just keep doing what I was doing and it'll turn. So it's been coming, and it's nice to finish it off.
"It's nice to lead from the front and see it through. I led from day one and it would've been easy to fall by the wayside. It's not easy, but I've done it."
Vancsik was disappointed to fall just short, but he could find little fault with his performance and was intent on taking the positives from his outing. "I played really well today and putted brilliantly. I just focused on my game to try to win," he said. "Four shots is a lot to make up, and I knew Russell was playing really well as I played with him yesterday. It has been a good week for me and I'm pleased with the way I have played."
o Ross Drummond and Andrew Oldcorn produced two of the best second-round performances at the Senior Tour's Berenberg Bank Masters in Germany.
Drummond's four-under-par 68 put him on six under for the tournament, but he is five shots behind leader Mark Mouland in a share of eight place. Oldcorn's 66, achieved thanks to six birdies in his closing seven holes, was the day's lowest score. He is a shot adrift of his fellow Scot in a tie for 10th.