Sebastien Loeb, bidding for his eight consecutive world title, headed for victory in the Rally of Spain, the penultimate race of the season, on Saturday.
The Frenchman's overnight lead was trimmed to 27.6 seconds by the in-form Jari-Matti Latvala, who won the day's final stage, while his championship rival Mikko Hirvonen slipped further off the pace.
The Finn, who is tied at the top of the world standings with Loeb on 196 points, was almost two minutes back in third after a frustrating day.
"I have a good feeling and my car is going well," Citroen's Loeb told the World Rally Championship website (www.wrc.com) as he eyed a seventh straight Rally of Spain victory.
"I have a good rhythm but I am having to push because Jari-Matti is surprisingly fast on tarmac. My lead should be enough tomorrow if I make no mistakes."
Hirvonen was under pressure from fourth-placed Spaniard Dani Sordo throughout the day.
"I'm not happy. The car works properly, but we aren't achieving good times. I´m closer to Sordo than to Loeb and Latvala," Hirvonen said.
France's Sebastien Ogier, who is third in the championship, three points behind Loeb and Hirvonen, was fifth after suffering a puncture for a second consecutive day.
"It's been a very bad weekend for us with a lot of bad luck," said Ogier. "That's rallying, so now we are just trying to finish."
Sunday's final day features six stages over 102.62 kilometres.