Following complete optic nerve injury in a lizard, Ctenophorus ornatus, retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons regenerate but fail to restore retinotectal topography unless animals are trained on a visual task (Beazley et al. [ 1997] J Comp Neurol 370:105-120,  J Neurotrauma 20:1263-1270). Here we show that incomplete injury, which leaves some RGC axons intact, restores normal topography. Strict RGC axon topography allowed us to preserve RGC axons on one side of the nerve (projecting to medial tectum) while lesioning those on the other side (projecting to lateral tectum). Topography and response properties for both RGC axon populations were assessed electrophysiologically. The majority of intact RGC axons retained appropriate topography in medial tectum and had normal, consistently brisk, reliable responses. Regenerate RGC axons fell into two classes: those that projected topographically to lateral tectum with responses that tended to habituate and those that lacked topography, responded weakly, and habituated rapidly. Axon tracing by localized retinal application of carbocyanine dyes supported the electrophysiological data. RGC soma counts were normal in both intact and axotomized RGC populations, contrasting with the 30% RGC loss after complete injury. Unlike incomplete optic nerve injury in mammals, where RGC axon regeneration fails and secondary cell death removes many intact RGC somata, lizards experience a "win-win" situation: intact RGC axons favorably influence the functional outcome for regenerating ones and RGCs do not succumb to either primary or secondary cell death.