Jari-Matti Latvala's lead is down to nine seconds going into the final day of the Rally Sardinia Italia, as his Ford teammate Mikko Hirvonen continued to close in through Saturday's late stages.
Although Latvala had managed to keep his pursuers at bay while running first on the road this morning, Hirvonen made greater inroads into his team-mate's lead during this afternoon's loop.
The battle for victory now looks like an all-Ford affair though, with Sebastien Loeb having lost over a minute when he had to stop and change a punctured tire on SS11.
Latvala said he was very pleased with his performance so far, but acknowledged that Hirvonen would have the edge on Sunday as he would enjoy more favourable road conditions running in second place.
"It's been a really good day," he said. "We had a really tough battle on stage 11 and I made a little mistake there and spun on a junction. But that's really the only mistake I've made today.
"It won't be so easy [tomorrow]. In first position, I've been losing a little bit too much time today. I was losing time on this last stage, my tires started to be a little bit too finished."
Hirvonen did not think running second would make too much difference tomorrow, and said he was looking forward to the battle with his teammate.
"OK, the starting position is not so great, but hopefully we can fight," he said.
Although Loeb has already reduced the gap to the leaders from 1m33s to 1m14s, with only five stages tomorrow he expects to have to settle for a podium. He finished the day 1.8s behind third-placed Petter Solbeg.
"Now I'll try to catch Petter for the third place; it's the only thing I can do," said Loeb. "I lost too much. It has been a difficult rally for us since the start. It's not going like we want."
Solberg does not think he has much chance of holding Loeb off in the morning.
"It will be difficult to beat Sebastien, but at least we've had a very good day -- that's the main thing," he said.
The battle for the remaining points positions has been turned inside out by a series of dramas this afternoon. Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg was first to hit trouble, breaking his front suspension on SS11. Around the same time, Dani Sordo started losing huge amounts of time as a turbo problem developed on his Citroen C4.
Evgeny Novikov (Citroen Junior) looked set to lose fifth place due to an SS12 spin, only for his sparring partner Mads Ostberg (Adapta Subaru) to stop near the end of the same stage. That meant Novikov completed leg two in a very comfortable top five position, which was good news for Citroen Junior given that his team-mates Conrad Rautenbach and Sebastien Ogier -- the latter already running under superally after a Friday error -- both halted with suspension damage this afternoon.
All of that has moved Matthew Wilson and Khalid Al Qassimi up to sixth and seventh ahead of the struggling Sordo, with Ostberg and Solberg classified ninth and 10th via superally at present.
Patrik Sandell has extended a 23sec lead over Nasser Al-Attiyah in the Production class, which is now a two-way dice as their Friday sparring partner Patrick Flodin has fallen back to fourth behind Armindo Araujo following differential problems this morning.
Early Junior class leader Martin Prokop looked set to overcome the delay caused by an electrical glitch yesterday and storm back into the lead today, only to clip a tree and damage his Citroen on the final stage. That means Michal Kosciuszko stays ahead going into day three, with Alessandro Bettega -- who led briefly after Prokop's problems on Friday -- out of contention following a trip off the road.Leading positions after day two:
Pos Driver Car Time
1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford 2h58m.03.5s
2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 9.9s
3. Petter Solberg Citroen + 1m12.6s
4. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 1m14.8s
5. Evgeny Novikov Citroen + 2m46.0s
6. Matthew Wilson Ford + 5m02.8s
7. Khalid Al Qassimi Ford + 6m57.9s
8. Dani Sordo Citroen + 8m38.8s
9. Mads Ostberg Subaru + 12m29.0s
10. Henning Solberg Ford + 12m30.1s