Thierry Neuville won the final three races on the second day of the Rally de Portugal to claim the outright lead heading into the weekend.
Rally Argentina winner Ott Tanak was on top of the pile after Thursday's opening race and the lead changed hands on five more occasions over the course of the next eight stages.
Neuville's gamble of selecting soft tyres on the rocky dirt roads near the Spanish border paid off as he clinched a 17.7-second advantage in his Hyundai i20 over Elfyn Evans in his Ford Fiesta.
Dani Sordo is a further 6.6secs further back while World Rally Championship leader Sebastien Ogier was among a lengthy list of competitors to be sidelined after coming a cropper on the tricky terrain.
Germany's Neuville said in quotes on www.wrc.com: "Today was tough but we managed to stay out of trouble.
"It was very rough and there were many, many surprises so I tried to save the car a bit. It was a risky tyre choice which was maybe not great but we made it work."
Waterford's Craig Breen finishes the day in eighth place overall after that puncture on stage seven saw him drop from third place, while Kris Meeke is a spot above him in seventh,