Elfyn Evans extended his lead on Rallye Monte Carlo to 4.9 seconds over Sebastien Ogier on Saturday afternoon, with Thierry Neuville now just 1.5 seconds behind in third.
Ogier had re-taken the lead on stage 11 on a tiebreak after pulling level with his Toyota teammate, but Evans made the most of the Frenchman’s more cautious approach on the final test of the day to pull back ahead.
The Welshman almost fell into a ditch near the end of the final stage on Saturday, but luckily escaped unharmed and he leads an incredibly tight fight going into tomorrow.
Neuville behind in third won both of the afternoon loops stages as he more than halved the deficit to the two drivers ahead of him and is now over two minutes ahead of his closest rival behind, teammate Sebastien Loeb.
The top six are effectively split into two battles with four stages left – the leading trio and then the race for fourth between Loeb, Esapekka Lappi, who is now just 14.1 seconds behind the nine-time champion and Kalle Rovanperä, who is 48.9 seconds further adrift on his Toyota debut.
Takamoto Katsuta continued his quiet but consistent rally throughout the afternoon, and leapfrogged Eric Camilli into seventh on stage 12.
The WRC3 leader has 58.5 seconds in hand over WRC2 frontrunner Mads Østberg, with the Norwegian wanting to close him down and be the first R5 finisher home tomorrow.
He had been battling with Ole Christian Veiby, but the Hyundai driver spun on the final stage of the day and dropped nearly 40 seconds as a result.
Sunday sees the crews tackle four more stages totalling 63.54km to decide the winner of the opening round of the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship.