With the lead of the race seemingly in the hands of Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier, it's the pitched battle between Ford Fiesta RS drivers Mads Ostberg (Qatar M-Sport WRT) and Thierry Neuville (Qatar WRT) that is proving the lion's share of the thrills and tension heading into the final afternoon of the Neste Oil Rally Finland.

"This afternoon will be the same as this morning," said Ostberg, who currently holds second place in the times at the lunchtime service. "Driving to the maximum without going over the limit.

"It seems like Thierry is taking more risks than me, but we managed to take a lot of time off him on the first and last two stages," he added, after a morning that had seen the pair switch positions throughout the morning.

"The two middle stages were not perfect and I struggled to find the rhythm at the start of Ouninpohja [SS18]," Ostberg admitted. "But we turned it around towards the end and there are a lot of places where I know I can be quicker this afternoon."

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The fierce battle between the two Ford Fiesta drivers runs the risk of one or both of them pushing just that inch too hard and inviting disaster in the closing stages of the race, but despite this threat Ostberg says that team management wasn't about to intervene.

"I don't think you'll see any team orders," said the 25-year-old Norwegian. "Everyone wants to see this fight. It's a great battle and I think we're both really enjoying it!"

Certainly Neuville wasn't planning on backing off: "There is only one plan for this afternoon and that is to push to the maximum again," he said at lunch.

"I think we were slightly faster than Mads but on the first stage we lost five seconds overshooting a junction. Then on the last one we completely lost the tyres. I had no traction so I had to give up second ... again!"

But overall, the Belgian driver was more than happy with his morning's pace, even on the longest stage of the day where he dropped the most time to Ostberg in the morning.

"Honestly I was really surprised with our speed in Ouninpohja," he said. "I've done it only once before and then I was really slow. This year the pacenotes were perfect and I really enjoyed the driving. I think it was the best stage I have ever driven in my life!"

Feeling slightly left out of this Qatar M-Sport thriller toward the front is Evgeny Novikov who finished the morning in eighth as he continues to fight back from problems on Friday.

"We tried to push on every stage apart from Ouninpohja but for some reason the times still aren't coming," sighed the Russian. "I really don't know what it is because I feel as though we are driving well without making any mistakes. All we can do now is stay on the road and continue to check the notes ahead of next year."