Sebastien Ogier controlled Rally Mexico's afternoon loop on Saturday as Volkswagen closed in on a one-two finish and Thierry Neuville edged closer to a shock podium for Hyundai.
Ogier, untouchable on the long runs across Ibarrilla and Otatitos, pushed his lead over VW team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala to over a minute by claiming victory on three of the final five stages.
The Frenchman, only outpaced by Latvala on the SS17 leg of the superspecial, even recovered from a two-wheeled moment on SS18 to end the final stage with the second-fastest time.
Neuville, Ogier's head-to-head rival on the superspecials, has strengthened his bid to deliver a podium for Hyundai on only the third round of the Korean firm's i20 WRC.
Though he is now more than three and a half minutes behind Latvala in second the Belgian has been a revelation, moving from ninth after the first morning on Friday to a comfortable third, having extended his advantage over M-Sport's Elfyn Evans to 47 seconds.
Despite being neck-and-neck after the morning, both drivers played down any suggestion of a battle developing for the final podium position as they target getting to the finish on a rally that has claimed several scalps already.
One of those, Robert Kubica, will not return on Sunday after the rollcage on his Ford Fiesta RS WRC was damaged during a second roll of the event earlier on Saturday.
Andreas Mikkelsen and erstwhile rally leader Mads Ostberg, the other two drivers not to appear after Saturday's midday service, are expected to contest the final day under Rally 2 regulations.
Mikko Hirvonen and Kris Meeke both moved ahead of runaway WRC2 leader Yuriy Protasov on Saturday's later stages.
They are now eighth and ninth, Meeke having topped the times on SS18, with Protasov's R5 Fiesta rounding out the top 10.
Leading positions after SS18:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Ogier VW 3h36m42.2s 2. Jari-Matti Latvala VW +1m00.3s 3. Theirry Neuville Hyundai +4m37.0s 4. Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ford +5m24.0s 5. Martin Prokop Czech Ford +8m02.5s 6. Benito Guerra M-Sport Ford +10m33.6s 7. Chris Atkinson Hyundai +12m18.3s 8. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +16m09.4s 9. Kris Meeke Citroen +17m18.9s 10. Yuriy Protasov Protasov Ford +17m35.0s*
*R5 rally car
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