Dan Martin was best of the Irish in seventh as Wout Van Aert won stage six of the Tour of Britain ahead of Ethan Hayter in the shadow of the Angel of the North to cut the Londoner's overall lead to just four seconds.
The 198-kilometre stage from Carlisle to Gateshead came down to a sprint between the three overall favourites on the short drag up to the line, and Van Aert came around Hayter to win his third stage while world champion Julian Alaphilippe finished third.
Martin was part of the leading pack at the finish line and remains seventh overall in the general classification, one minute and 10 seconds behind Hayter.
Martin's cousin and long-time Irish Olympic team-mate Nicolas Roche is 13th overall after finishing stage six in 28th, while Rory Townsend and Ben Healy are 45th and 60th respectively in the standings.
Healy of Trinity Racing was 32nd in Friday's stage, while Townsend was 69th.
Jumbo-Visma's Van Aert halved Hayter's lead with two stages still to go after the Ineos Grenadiers rider took victory in Warrington 24 hours earlier. Alaphilippe sits third, 21 seconds down.
"To be honest, I was quite happy with second today," Hayter said. "I was on the limit and to be in a three-up sprint with Van Aert, second is not too bad."
Mark Cavendish and his Deceuninck-QuickStep team had done much to animate the day, with the Manxman getting in a nine-strong breakaway alongside team-mate Tim Declerq.
They built an advantage of four minutes over the northern Pennines as they tried to engineer a different sort of victory for Cavendish, but would be chased down as attacks flew in the finale.
The race continues with a 195km stage from Hawick to Edinburgh on Saturday before Sunday's finale into Aberdeen, Scotland.