Bryan Bouffier moved into the Monte Carlo Rally lead as snowfall on stage three added a new twist to an already thrilling event.
Early leader Robert Kubica fell to fourth place, unable to match those who had taken winter tyres for the stage.
Kubica had been fastest on SS1 and SS2, starting his first season at the World Rally Championship's top level with M-Sport in incredible style by opening a 36-second lead over world champion Sebastien Ogier over the first two tests.
But snow on the final section of the following stage turned the lead order inside out.
Bouffier, who won the 2011 Monte when it was part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, Kris Meeke, Dani Sordo and Elfyn Evans all put two snow tyres on their cars and surged up the leaderboard as a result.
Pacesetter Bouffier's M-Sport Ford moved into the rally lead by 13.6s over Meeke's Citroen. They had been fourth and third prior to the snow-afflicted stage.
In the first outing for Hyundai's new i20, Sordo's snow tyre choice thrust him up to third place, a second ahead of Kubica, who is now 42s behind Bouffier overall.
Sordo's progress was a much-needed boost for Hyundai after its lead driver Thierry Neuville crashed out just seven kilometres into the first stage of the rally.
Evans was second fastest to Bouffier on the stage and is now fifth.
Perhaps the most astonishing underdog performance of the morning came from WRC3 champion Sebastien Chardonnet, who took the two-wheel-drive Citroen he won the third-tier title in to sixth overall, with Olivier Burri's Super 2000 Ford also flying in seventh.
Ogier's Volkswagen is back in ninth place, behind Meeke's Citroen team-mate Mads Ostberg.
Jari-Matti Latvala struggled for confidence in the conditions and is already three minutes off the lead, just behind fellow Volkswagen driver Andreas Mikkelsen. They are 17th and 18th, while Mikko Hirvonen is only 13th.
Leading positions after SS3:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Bryan Bouffier M-Sport Ford 45m44.2s
2. Kris Meeke Citroen +13.6s
3. Dani Sordo Hyundai +41.5s
4. Robert Kubica M-Sport Ford +42.5s
5. Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ford +46.7s
6. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen +51.7s*
7. Olivier Burri Burri Ford +1m09.0s**
8. Mads Ostberg Citroen +1m14.0s
9. Sebastien Ogier VW +1m19.4s
10. Jaroslav Melicharek Slovakia Ford +1m55.2s
* WRC3 spec car
** WRC2 spec car
Follow the Monte Carlo Rally as it happens on AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live from midday UK time today.
This week's AUTOSPORT magazine features a comprehensive Monte Carlo Rally supplement, including a look back at Mini's 1960s success and technical insight into the Volkswagen Polo R WRC