Thibaut Pinot claimed victory in the penultimate stage of the Giro d'Italia as Nairo Quintana kept hold of the pink jersey, though he may not have done enough to prevent Tom Dumoulin from taking the title in Sunday's closing time trial.
The final stages of the Giro have seen tensions between Dumoulin and general classification rivals Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali stoked up.
Bahrain-Merida's Nibali described Sunweb's Dumoulin as being "a little bit too cocky" after the Dutchman had said the Italian and Quintana were working together and that he hoped they would lose places.
Dumoulin's 31-second advantage was erased by Quintana on stage 19, but the two-time Dutch national time trial champion should head into the final stage as the favourite having limited the damage on Saturday.
The 190km run from Pordenone to Asiago featured two significant climbs at Monte Grappa and Foza, with the latter proving a key battleground in the stage and the overall race.
AG2R La Mondiale's Domenico Pozzovivo and Ilnur Zakarin of Katusha built a lead on the final ascent as Pinot, Quintana and Nibali aimed to hunt them down and build a sizeable gap to the chasing Dumoulin.
Nibali's gesticulations to Quintana following an attack made accusations of them working together seem well-founded and they succeeded in hauling in Zakarin and Pozzovivo before the finish.
Quintana led going into the final kilometre, but it was the response of Pinot to an attack from Pozzovivo that proved decisive.
However, Dumoulin finished just 15 seconds down on the leading group - keeping him within 53 seconds of Quintana and in an excellent position to claim his first Grand Tour crown.
GOOD DAY / BAD DAY
After a dreadful stage 19, Dumoulin should be feeling much better about his prospects having kept himself within touching distance on a stage considerably more suited to his GC foes.
He said: "Finally the climbs are gone. I was very happy that I had better legs and I had a good day again.
"The time gaps tomorrow will not be as big as in the last TT, definitely not, so I will just have to fight for every second and we'll see how it goes."
While Nibali has twice won time trials in the Giro, Quintana, who has one ITT success in the race in his career, is not considered as proficient in the discipline.
And Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzue accepted it will be a tough ask for Quintana to keep hold of the Maglia Rosa at the finish in Milan.
"We tried absolutely everything. We tried to increase the gap and we tried to make it a bigger advantage," he said. "We have managed to make it a bigger advantage but I still think that it will probably be too small to win overall.
"I think that today showed who the favourites are and I think that it confirmed that Dumoulin is still the favourite."
1. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) 4:57:58
2. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)
4. Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale)
5. Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 90:00:38
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) +0:39
3. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +0:43
4. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) +0:53
5. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha Alpecin) +1:15
1. Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) 325 points
2. Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo) 192 points
3. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) 117 points
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
1. Mikel Landa (Team Sky) 224 points
2. Luis Sanchez (Astana) 118 points
3. Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) 104 points
The Giro will be decided on the final stage, which starts with a lap of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, and ends after a 29.3 km ride to Milan, with Dumoulin the man most expect to be in pink come the end of Sunday's action.