Last year's winner Dani Sordo of Spain held off France's Sebastien Ogier and Belgian Thierry Neuville to extend his lead in the Rally of Sardinia on Saturday.
The overnight leader has a 27-second advantage on Ogier with Neuville 28sec off the pace with four specials remaining on the final day Sunday.
Six-time world champion Ogier won four stages -- SS7, SS9, SS11 and SS12 -- with Neuville taking the honours in SS10, in the sixth leg of the eight round world championship series.
The 37-year-old Sordo has claimed five special stages as the Hyundai driver targets back-to-back wins on the Mediterranean island.
"It's a good feeling to be here," said the Spaniard, competing for the first time since March's Rally of Mexico, before the coronavirus pandemic, when he retired with engine problems.
"It's important to keep Seb and Thierry in the back.
"I know them both and they will try tomorrow. We need to keep concentrated to the end, until the very last kilometre."
Ogier's Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans, the overall world championship leader, won SS3, but sitting fourth, slipped to nearly a minute off the pace.
"Pretty happy with my day. We won 4 stages out of 6 which is good," said Ogier on Twitter.
"Unfortunately the other 2 cost us a bit of time but overall it's a positive day.
"Tomorrow we will fight for 2nd but also put pressure until the end. You never know what can happen, so we'll keep doing our best"
Finland's Teemu Suninen, dropped down the standings from second overnight after hand brake problems, leaving the Ford Fiesta driver fifth, over one minute behind the leader.
Defending world champion Estonian Ott Tanak is sixth after losing time because of suspension problems on Friday morning and is now 2min 25sec adrift.