The Belgian safely navigated his way through Saturday’s seven stages – including the short blast through the perilous Salou street stage – to complete the penultimate leg of the event with a 16.4 second lead.

Neuville began the second day with a mere seven tenths of a second separating him and the Toyota Yaris belonging to Elfyn Evans – but a clean sweep of stages wins this morning increased that to 9 seconds.

Although Neuville was not as dominant in the afternoon, taking just two fastest times, his pace was still strong enough to put further daylight between him and one-time leader Evans, whose hopes of a third win this season now appear remote.

“When everything is going the right way everything feels good and it’s a pleasure to drive,” said Neuville.

“It wasn’t an easy day; it was really tricky in the morning with the fog and very dirty stages. Then this afternoon the middle stage was very dirty with lots of gravel but I was confident with the information I was getting from my gravel crew.”

Evans’ inability to keep pace with Neuville was blamed on set-up changes that had been carried out on his supermini prior to Saturday’s action getting underway.

In order to drive around the problem until lunchtime service, the Welshman found himself having to feed the power in gently in order to find traction.

Despite looking into the issue with his mechanics, he still wasn’t happy for the repeat loop of stages. “We couldn’t find the sweet spot like Friday,” he said.

“It has been a frustrating afternoon for us. We gambled to try and change some stuff to improve the car for this afternoon, but it didn’t work unfortunately and we have gone in the opposite direction.”

Team-mate Sebastien Ogier had the misfortune of an errant handling Yaris yesterday but there was to be no repeat today as he rolled up his sleeves to deal with the threat posed by the third Hyundai of Dan Sordo.

At one point, Sordo moved to within two tenths of a second of the third-placed Frenchman, who is aiming to seal an eighth drivers’ crown on what will be his last season as a full-time World Rally driver.

With Sordo being urged on by his home supporters at every turn, Ogier promised “to try harder and take a few more risks”.

That approach paid dividends until this evening's Salou spectator special when he lost 5.2 seconds to the Spaniard to leave the gap at just 1.2 seconds.

“The engine stalled and I don’t know why. I was on the clutch, like normal, and then it happened,” revealed a clearly annoyed Ogier.

“We know that this kind of stage these things can happen but it’s a shame because we had a good afternoon. But the positive is there; we finally have a car that suits me and the pace is there so I’m very confident for tomorrow,” he added.

With Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera finding himself in no-man's land, the young Finn has made getting to the finish and learning more about the fast and flowing Spanish roads the objective for Sunday.

He had a character-building Saturday, puncturing on stage eight before experiencing "a huge moment" on the next test. "It was maybe the biggest I have had," he said, "so we were lucky to escape that one."

M-Sport Ford's Gus Greensmith is sixth despite puncturing earlier in the day and having to contend with engine cooling issues throughout, while Hyundai Motorsport protege Oliver Solberg continues to impress in seventh.

Rally Spain concludes on Sunday with crews tackling a further four stages, one of which is the Power Stages where the top five fastest drivers will each earn bonus points.