Sebastian Loeb emerged from a bruising third day of Rally Argentina with a 39.8 second lead after watching a string of rivals run into trouble.
Loeb, chasing an eighth-striaght WRC victory in Argentina in his Citroen DS3, largely just needed to keep everything pointing in the right direction as Sebastian Ogier, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala all ran into trouble.
"It was a very hard day for tyres and the cars," Loeb said on WRC.com. "I didn't have any problems but I had to push hard because Ogier was pushing hard also. I expected it to be difficult and it was. I will try to be cautious tomorrow but I still have to keep a rhythm."
Overnight leader Ogier got off to a strong start in his Volkwagen Polo R, claiming a fifth win in six stages on the opening run of the morning, contested amid fog and mud.
That extended his lead to 17.7 seconds, but the advantage was gone on stage seven when he got into a slide and missed his turn.
The mistake cost him 40 seconds and his lead as he dropped to third. A puncture in the afternoon would deal an even heavier blow to his challenge.
Hirvonen also suffered a puncture on stage eight to lose 35 seconds, but that was small potatoes compared to the six minutes he lost on the next stage thanks to an electrical glitch.
Latvala could not avoid the puncture curse either as Loeb drove off into the distance.
By the end of the day, Loeb led Ogier by almost 40 seconds, with Evgeny Novikov taking advantage of the carnage around him to climb to third, ahead of Latvala and Thierry Neuville, with Hirvonen down in sixth.
The rally concludes tomorrow with four more stages, a little under 78 kilometres separating Loeb from another title.