Jari-Matti Latvala established an 17.7-seconds lead over Volkswagen team-mate and World Rally Championship leader Sebastien Ogier after Friday's four stages at the Rally Argentina.
Latvala took over the lead from Ogier on SS3 before dropping back to second.
But he was dominant on the Ascochinga to Agua de Oro run, moving back to the top of the rankings.
The Finn was able to finish, despite having two chunks of rubber missing from his front left tyre.
Citroen's Kris Meeke lay third, with Mikko Hirvonen's rally ended prematurely just 7.5km into the opening stage from Santa Catalina to La Pampa.
His Ford Fiesta RS went sideways into a wall and was too badly damaged to continue.
"It was my mistake, I just missed a pace note," Hirvonen told wrc.com.
"There was a flat corner and for some reason I just missed it. The next bend was a short right into a very tight left, and I thought that was the flat corner. I went way too fast. My mistake, my rally didn't last too long this time."
Hirvonen was just one of a host of names who were forced to retire, with Mads Ostberg, Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen all seeing their hopes ended.