Sebastien Ogier is fending off Jari-Matti Latvala at the head of the field going into the final two stages in New Zealand, after Sebastien Loeb took the lead only to go off the road again and fall back to fourth.
Loeb had produced an astonishing performance on Saturday to recover from eighth place, 1m40s off the lead, following a Friday error to a close second, just 5sec behind long-time leader Ogier.
The Citroen Junior driver did his best to resist Loeb this morning, edging slightly further away on the first splits of today's opening stage, only to then spin and hand the lead to Loeb.
"I did a mistake, on a slow corner I was a little bit too fast, hit the bank and I spun," Ogier said. "I lost 10 seconds. For sure I've lost the lead."
He resumed 4sec behind Loeb, who then looked set for a straightforward run to victory as Ogier found running first on the road through Whaanga Coast extremely difficult and lost a lot of time. But there was another twist to come, with Loeb going off the road near the end of the stage, sustaining damage to his Citroen's front end, and costing him 40s and three positions.
That put Ogier back into the lead, but he is concerned that running first will make him highly vulnerable to those behind -- and sure enough Latvala (Ford) closed to within 5sec of Ogier by the end of Whaanga Cost, and Petter Solberg also made gains, getting his private Citroen up to third, 16.7sec behind Ogier.
Ford number one Mikko Hirvonen won the morning's first stage and has now taken fifth from Citroen's Dani Sordo, closing to within 2sec of the delayed Loeb in the process.
The field is now heading for remote service before repeating this morning's two stages. The top six remain within half a minute after two and a half days of rallying.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Ogier Citroen 3h35m38.9s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 5.6s
3. Petter Solberg Citroen + 16.7s
4. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 21.7s
5. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 23.6s
6. Dani Sordo Citroen + 31.4s
7. Matthew Wilson Ford + 3m00.5s
8. Henning Solberg Ford + 5m47.6s
9. Federico Villagra Ford + 8m49.0s
10. Jari Ketomaa Ford + 9m00.2s