Jari-Matti Latvala will take a lead of 9.5 seconds into the final day of Rally Portugal, as Volkswagen teammate Sebastien Ogier surged to second place with a trio of stage wins.
An early puncture on Friday had left reigning champion Ogier almost 30 seconds off leader Latvala in sixth, but wasted no time in making up for lost ground despite continuing to assume road-sweeping duties for a second day in succession.
The Frenchman made up two places on the first stage of the morning at the expense of Ott Tanak and Dani Sordo to move into fourth, steadily reducing the deficit to Latvala in the following stages.
Ogier then came to life in the afternoon, winning all three tests to leapfrog first Andreas Mikkelsen and then Kris Meeke.
The result is that Latvala will defend a lead of 9.5s heading into the last three stages, the Finn dropping almost five seconds in the final test of the day after admitting to taking too much life out of his tyres.
Meeke drops back
Meeke started the day well, winning SS9 and SS10 to close within 6.1s of Latvala, before dropping back in the afternoon, conceding second to Ogier with a miserable run through the final stage that was plagued by tyre wear.
The Citroen driver is now all but out of contention for a second straight WRC win, 20s behind Latvala and just 1.1s ahead of Mikkelsen, who racked up another stage victory on SS8.
Tanak is fifth, albeit now over a minute off the pace, the new M-Sport Fiesta failing to perform as well as it did on Friday’s stages.
Evans and Neuville crash out
There was more misery for Tanak’s teammate Elfyn Evans, who was forced to stop with an early throttle problem yesterday and rejoined on Saturday under Rally2 rules - the Welshman’s rally came to an end on SS8 after he hit a rock.
Thierry Neuville, a lowly ninth after Friday's running, also crashed out on the same stage, blocking the road and holding up Hyundai teammate Sordo in the process.
Sordo is now almost two minutes off the lead in sixth, just ahead of the third Hyundai of Haydon Paddon and the second Citroen of Mads Ostberg, which was hobbled by a turbo problem for much of the day.