Sebastien Ogier reclaimed the Rally Sweden lead from his Volkswagen team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen at the end of a fascinating first day.
Mikkelsen had reduced Ogier's initial 8.1-second lead to just 1.6s going into the lunchtime regroup, then trimmed it to 0.5s on the next stage.
The Norwegian then took the lead - by just 0.2s - but relinquished it on the day's final stage when he chose to save his new tyres for Friday morning and run older rubber.
Conditions in Sweden this weekend are putting a premium on tyre conservation. With far less snow than the World Rally Championship field would hope for, the drivers need to nurse their allocation of 24 tyres through increasingly gravel-based stages that will rip the winter studs from the rubber.
Deciding to save rubber at the end of Thursday meant Mikkelsen fell 5.8s behind Ogier heading into day two.
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VW is back into one-two-three formation with Jari-Matti Latvala 12.2s off the lead in third.
M-Sport's returnee Ott Tanak had briefly got ahead of Latvala during Thursday afternoon, and ended the day just 2.6s behind the factory car.
Citroen's Mads Ostberg and M-Sport's Mikko Hirvonen share fifth place overnight, 7.7s behind Tanak and 9.5s ahead of Thierry Neuville in the best of the Hyundais.
Henning Solberg had run as high as eighth in an encouraging WRC return for both himself and Pirelli, but a right-front puncture - which he suspected came from hitting a stone - cost him 50s on the final stage of the day.
He had previously been in a very close dice with his stepson Pontus Tidemand and Hyundai driver Juho Hanninen.
Kris Meeke and Robert Kubica have continued to avoid risks as they build up snow rally experience, and run 10th and 11th.
Leading positions after SS7:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Ogier VW 39m56.5s
2. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +5.8s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala VW +12.2s
4. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford +14.8s
5. Mads Ostberg Citroen +22.5s
6. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +22.5s
7. Thierry Neuville Hyundai +32.0s
8. Juho Hanninen Hyundai +42.0s
9. Pontus Tidemand M-Sport Ford +44.6s
10. Kris Meeke Citroen +46.6s