Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb pretty much maintained his lead on the Neste Oil Rally Finland following the middle loop on Saturday.
Loeb conceded 4.6 seconds to Mikko Hirvonen on the first test after service F, but pulled back 3.2 seconds in the next stage, the 20.09 kilometre-run through Kakaristo 1. SS17 saw the Frenchman lose another 1.4 seconds, but again he responded in SS18 and was 1.9 seconds up on Hirvonen.
Loeb consequently returned to Paviljonki for the mid-day halt with a 14.8 second lead, just 0.9 seconds less than he was in front post-SS14.
"A great effort again and I did that last stage really well. I was really confident and pushed hard. The tyres are strong and we had no punctures so I was very happy," said Loeb. "I am just trying to keep the same gap we have had all day - it will be difficult to increase it I think."
Hirvonen meanwhile continues to keep the pressure on and the youngster is refusing to give up in front of his home fans.
"It is getting close but it is not over. I am not giving up," vowed the BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT #1. "Seb is a fighter and he is putting in some amazing times but I am pushing hard all the time. The car is going really well. I have just got to get some time back."
Dani Sordo is third, albeit more than 2 minutes off the battle at the front. The Spaniard had been fifth post-SS14, but moved up a spot in SS15, when he overhauled Henning Solberg and then gained another place in SS16, when Gigi Galli crashed out.
"I'm sorry that Gigi has gone out, but now I can relax a bit and concentrate on improving our times," said the Citroen #2.
Henning Solberg trails Sordo in P4 and while he would have only been 7 seconds back, that margin increased to 17 seconds, after he picked up a 10 second penalty for jumping the start in SS16.
"I don't know what happened. I did something wrong with my handbrake and jumped the start at SS16 which has got me a 10 second penalty so it is now all or nothing," noted the Norweigan. "I know I have the speed so I just have to keep up my confidence and try to take as much out of Dani Sordo as I can if I want that podium."
Further down the order Subaru WRT men Chris Atkinson and Petter Solberg are fifth and sixth, the former just 2.9 seconds off Henning after a string of good times, including a third best effort in SS18.