Triple world champion Sebastien Ogier holds a 9.5-second lead over Kris Meeke after day two of the Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Meeke held an advantage of 6.9secs over Ogier after the first day of racing in the season-opening rally, but it was the defending champion who was in front by the end of the final stage on Friday.
Volkswagen Polo R driver Ogier set the pace in the opening speed test from Corps to La Salle En Beaumont, only for Meeke hit back on the route from Aspres Les Corps and Chauffayer to lead by 6.7secs after four of the 16 stages.
Normal service was resumed when Ogier moved back into the lead at the end of the morning loop after the Frenchman was 8.2secs quicker than the Briton from Les Costes to Chaillol despite clipping a bridge.
Meeke was back in the lead by just 0.8secs after stage seven as the enthralling duel continued, having set the fastest time in his Citroen DS 3 on a 25.78-kilometre stage from Aspres les Corps to Chauffayer.
But Ogier was not to be denied the lead heading into the weekend, securing the final win of the day by over 9secs.
Meeke quipped: "There must be something in that stage that Seb knows. I think he lives about 3 kilometres from there, so I'm happy to give him that one."
Ogier said: "It was exciting to have a great battle with Kris. It wasn't such a bad day, just a small mistake this morning when I touched a bridge and a slow puncture on the left rear in the final stage."
Jari-Matti Latvala is in third place, almost a minute back from Meeke, while his Volkswagen team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen slipped back to fourth as a result of a high-speed spin on the penultimate stage.