Team Sky upped the pace in the final kilometres of stage seven to keep Chris Froome in the Veulta a Espana leader's jersey as Matej Mohoric soloed to the biggest victory of his career in Cuenca.
Froome and his team-mates found themselves nine minutes behind the stage leaders heading into the final climb on Friday and needed to accelerate to ensure he remains top of the general classification for another day.
Spaniard Mikel Nieve - who will leave the team next year - set himself up on the front of the Sky train and slowly dragged the four-time Tour de France winner to safety.
Upfront, Mohoric showed his climbing skills to push clear of the 15-man breakaway on Alto del Castillo, the UAE Team Emirates rider able to gain 13 seconds on his rivals.
Having dropped Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale) it was left to Pawel Poljanski (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) to lead the chase but Mohoric proved too good.
-- @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamUAEAbuDhabi) August 25, 2017
Once the road flattened out following the final descent, the Slovenian cruised to the line and attention turned to the whereabouts of the peloton.
Eventually they came home eight minutes and 37 seconds behind Mohoric, enough to preserve Froome's 11-second advantage over Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott).
GOOD DAY/BAD DAY
In only his fourth Grand Tour, Mohoric claimed his first stage win and it was a mightily impressive ride that sees the 22-year-old begin to deliver on the promise he showed as a youngster - when he won the Under-23 World Championships in 2013.
Team Sky's late flurry was a huge boost for Froome and a major disappointment for his rivals, just when they thought there was a chance to replace him it was quickly distinguished by Nieve and co.
There was disappointment for Gougeard, though, as he saw his efforts in the breakaway come to nothing despite initially moving clear with Mohoric, the Frenchman eventually coming home over two minutes back.
1. Matej Mohoric (UAE Team Emirates) 4:43:35
2. Pawel Poljanski (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0.16
3. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) +0.16
4. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) +0.16
5. Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing) +0.27
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 27:46:51
2. Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) +0.11
3. Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing) +0.13)
1. Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) 49 points
2. Pawel Poljanski (Bora-Hansgrohe) 44 points
3. Matej Mohoric (UAE Team Emirates) 43 points
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
1. Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac) 38 points
2. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) 17 points
3. Darwin Atapuma (UAE Team Emirates) 12 points
A daunting category-one climb with 20 per cent gradients await the peloton on Saturday, and the Alto Xorret de Cati comes just three kilometres before the finish.
Stage eight begins in Hellin with two smaller ascents to negotiate before the challenging end to the day - which could provide supreme climber Froome with a chance to distance his rivals.