Jari-Matti Latvala edged out a little breathing space over Thierry Neuville by the end of Friday's leg of Rally Germany.
A string of four straight fastest times had brought Neuville's M-Sport Ford to within two seconds of Latvala's rally-leading Volkswagen.
Then Latvala, who had not been totally comfortable with his car's handling, got into his stride on the last two stages of the day.
Quicker than Neuville by a couple of seconds on both, he rebuilt a lead of 7.3 seconds.
Neuville reckoned he was at his car's maximum, and ended the day unsure whether he would have an answer to Latvala when the rally resumes on Saturday morning.
Latvala and Neuville's pace has edged them clear of the rest of the field.
Citroen's Dani Sordo managed to match their times at first, but as the leaders went ever quicker, the Spaniard fell 26.3s behind.
He is still 21s ahead of team-mate Mikko Hirvonen, while Mads Ostberg is a long way off the pace in fifth.
Robert Kubica continues to lead WRC2 despite a heavy landing on a compression causing his Citroen's rear wing support to break.
He then failed to secure the boot properly after effecting repairs, causing it to fly open on the next stage.
Kubica reckoned those dramas cost him half a minute in total, yet he maintained a 12.4s lead over Briton Elfyn Evans.
Leading positions after SS8:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Jari-Matti Latvala VW 1h38m04.1s
2. Thierry Neuville M-Sport Ford +7.3s
3. Dani Sordo Citroen +26.3s
4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen +47.6s
5. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Ford +2m12.3s
6. Martin Prokop Czech Ford +4m17.6s
7. Nasser Al-Attiyah M-Sport Ford +4m52.1s
8. Robert Kubica PH Citroen +4m59.5s*
9. Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ford +5m11.9s*
10. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Deutschland +6m53.7s*