Jari-Matti Latvala will start the final day of the Wales Rally GB with a 7.3-second advantage over Sebastien Loeb, but will be running first on the road in what could be very treacherous conditions.
Problems getting off the line in the leg-closing Millennium Stadium cost Latvala a handful of seconds and allowed Loeb to close the gap to single figures, with just four stages remaining tomorrow morning.
Ford driver Latvala had earlier seen the Citroens carve into his lead in the first stage of day two as he struggled for grip on the frosty surface, and with the forecast predicting that temperatures will plummet again tonight, the Finn expects a tough showdown on Sunday.
Even if Latvala hangs on and wins the rally, it is unlikely that Ford will beat Citroen to the manufacturers' championship, for Loeb and teammate Dani Sordo's current second and third places will comfortably secure the crown for the French company for the first time since 2005.
Latvala's teammate Mikko Hirvonen is now on course to score a manufacturers' championship point having taken ninth overall from Stobart Ford's Matthew Wilson (whose sixth-placed teammate Henning Solberg is not nominated for points on this event), but that will not be enough for Ford to overturn Citroen's current 11-point advantage.
Behind the top three, Petter Solberg (Subaru) is still in podium contention, running less than half a minute behind Sordo. Solberg's brother Henning - who has flown through this afternoon's stages after a highly successful set-up change - is now just 3.2 seconds from taking fifth place off Suzuki's Per-Gunnar Andersson, the former Junior champion unable to repeat his stunning Friday performance as conditions improved.
Francois Duval is on course for seventh for Stobart, ahead of Toni Gardemeister in the second Suzuki. Gardemeister is 71 seconds clear of Hirvonen, but given Hirvonen's pace today and the Suzuki's niggling technical problems during the weekend, that position is certainly not secure going into day three.
Outside the top ten, Valentino Rossi escaped a minor brush with the scenery this afternoon with only slight damage to his Stobart Ford, and now runs 15th, just under ten minutes behind leader Latvala.
Leading positions after day three:
Pos Driver Car Time 1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford 1h47:52.4 2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 7.3 3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 27.9 4. Petter Solberg Subaru + 52.5 5. Per-Gunnar Andersson Suzuki + 2:06.1 6. Henning Solberg Ford + 2:09.3 7. Francois Duval Ford + 2:29.6 8. Toni Gardemeister Suzuki + 3:33.0 9. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 4:44.5 10. Matthew Wilson Ford + 4:49.5