Sebastien Ogier will take a 16.7s lead into the final day of the Safari Rally but mindful his advantage could have been double had it not been for a delayed run through Saturday's closing test.
Ogier, who is competing on a part-time basis this season but has already won twice, headed into the rain-hit 31.04km Sleeping Warrior stage on top by 32.0s. But with his two front tyres noticeably softer than they should have been at the stage finish, his advantage over factory Toyota team-mate Kalle Rovanpera was trimmed by half.
With six stages and 75.72 timed kilometres remaining, Ogier is far from secure up front as both he and Rovanpera bid for a second Safari victory.
“Even on the straights, second gear was quite high-speed,” Rovanpera said after making it through the treacherous conditions on SS13. “We are here in one piece and that was the only goal for today.”
Takamota Katsuta was in third after demoting fellow Toyota driver Elfyn Evans on the penultimate stage. But a spin and reverse on SS13 gave Evans the place back to make up for a troubled Saturday for the Welshman.
He began leg two 10.5s in front of Esapekka Lappi in the battle for third but slumped to fourth, 31.2s behind his Hyundai-driving rival, when his Yaris stalled exiting a watersplash on SS8.
His misfortune put Lappi on course for a fourth consecutive WRC podium on his Safari debut. But it all went wrong for the Finn when his i20 failed after 22 kilometres of SS11, leaving Evans, whose Yaris suffered a front-left puncture on SS10, to reclaim third before Katsuta momentarily got ahead on SS12.
Dani Sordo is fifth overnight in the only Hyundai to have gone the distance so far with Ott Tanak in sixth after the M-Sport Ford driver suffered yet more delay when he was forced to change a puncture on SS11. A broken rear damper caused the Estonian further frustration.
Pierre-Louis Loubet's tough Safari initiation continued in the second works Ford Puma when he ran wide into a bush on SS10 and had to reverse. He's almost 14 minutes behind leader Ogier at the end of Saturday's running.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz leads WRC2 in eighth overall after Gregoire Munster was forced to retire with a faltering Ford Fiesta. Thierry Neuville, who restarted after retiring with suspension failure on leg one, is ninth with Oliver Solberg in 10th.
Sunday's final leg begins with the new Malewa stage from 06:55 local time. The 9.00-kilometre test is one of three repeated stages on the itinerary, which concludes with the Hell's Gate Wolf Power Stage from 14:15.