Score’s by the judges were 115-114 either way, with the other scoring it even at 114 a piece.
Hatton who was walked to the ring and given vocal advice throughout the fight by brother Ricky, did land more punches than N’Dou 91 to 78.
Hatton did start the fight at a faster pace, forcing his opponent back and landing with a series of good jabs.
N’dou caught Hatton with a slashing punch in the second which opened a cut on his eyelid, but the Manchester boxer responded with a stiff left at the start of the third to rock N’dou.
The middle rounds were close, and Hatton at times was guilty of smothering his good work, and often forgot his jab, that was proving a useful tool. A good uppercut stunned N’dou in the seventh and backed him into the corner.
The work rate was of Hatton was better than N’Dou, whilst N’Dou stalked his challenger looking for the more telling punches, and at times Hatton did feel the force of the South African‘s punches.
N’dou, who has a record of never being stopped in 59 fights, landed with a flurry of unanswered punches in the ninth round and, after a tight 10th, backed Hatton up again in the 11th.
Hatton regained the initiative in the final round with N’dou looking more purposeful on the front foot, looking for a knockout punch, as if he knew it was a close call and didn’t want to leave his belt in the hands of the home town judges.
Body language at the final bell suggested Hatton, with four losses and a draw from his 42 fights previous fights would see his dream of becoming world champion realised as he raised his arms.
However, the judges saw it differently, allowing N’dou to keep his belt and set up a rematch.
“I thought I won the fight by three or four rounds,” an heartbroken Hatton told Sky Sports after the fight, which was held at Fenton Manor in Stoke.
“He gave me a tighter fight than I expected,” admitted N’dou, who now holds a 47-11-2 record.
“I’m a champion, it was a close fight, but I thought I was in control of the fight. I was landing more scoring punches than him.”
Hatton, unsurprisingly, disagreed adding: “Sometimes I’m my own worst critic, but I know I won that fight – I don’t care what Lovemore says, I won.”