Simon Yates retained the maglia rosa as Tom Dumoulin could only finish third in a Giro d'Italia stage 16 time trial which was won by Rohan Dennis.
Yates limited his losses on a day which was seen as pivotal in the general classification battle, time-trial specialist Dumoulin only able to reduce the Mitchelton-Scott rider's advantage to 56 seconds on the 34 kilometre course from Trento to Rovereto.
Coming into the stage, the race leader's explosive climbing had given him a margin of two minutes and 11 seconds over world time trial champion Dumoulin, who was unable to do significant damage at the start of the final week.
It was no secret that Yates is far less at home in time trials than he is in the mountains, but the Brit has given himself a golden opportunity to claim a maiden Grand Tour title in Rome this weekend after passing a major examination on Tuesday.
Australian Dennis put the hammer down to take his first Giro stage win in a time of 40 minutes ahead of Tony Martin.
BMC Racing's Dennis crossed the line 14 seconds quicker than Martin, with defending champion Dumoulin 22 seconds off the pace.
Chris Froome finished in fifth which was good enough to move up to fourth spot in the GC standings. He trails Yates by three minutes and 50 seconds behind third-placed Domenico Pozzovivo, who now sits over three minutes back from the leader having finished 33rd in the time trial.
Thibaut Pinot had a day to forget, slipping down to fifth place overall, finishing three minutes and 19 seconds off the pace of Dennis.
YATES PASSES STERN EXAMINATION
Yates said there was a danger he could blow up to undo the good work and end his title hopes given that time trials are not his forte.
But he knuckled down impressively to finish 22nd after coming off the ramp last, reaching the second intermediate in 30:44 and pressing on under the strain with so much at stake.
Dumoulin was 21 seconds up on Yates at the first check and stretched that to 48 at the second, which was 24km in.
The Dutchman threw everything at it in the closing stages, but it was not enough to take a stage win - which would have earned him a 10-second bonus - and Yates should sleep far more easily than he might have feared on Tuesday evening.
Dennis showed why he was one of the favourites to win the stage, reaching the second split six seconds ahead of Martin and keeping hold of his advantage.
Froome was sixth at the first split, but motored on in the latter stages of his run with an excellent recovery, keeping him firmly in the hunt for a podium finish.
1. Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) 40:00
2. Tony Martin (Katusha Alpecin) +0.14
3. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) +0.22
4. Jos van Emden (Lotto NL-Jumbo) +0.27
5. Chris Froome (Team Sky) +0.35
1. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 66:39:14
2. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) +56
3. Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) +3:11
1. Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) 237
2. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) 197
3. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)) 113
King of the Mountains
1. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 91
2. Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF) 52
3. Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) 47
A 155km ride from Riva del Garda to Iseo is not expected to see any change in the GC battle, with just a few climbs at the start and in the middle of a 17th stage which will give an opportunity to attackers. The Alps will follow later in the week.
|Rain delays Ostapenko in Seoul, Wang books Guangzhou semi|
|Pochettino backs Kane to end goal drought|
|We figured it out - 76ers´ Markelle Fultz rebuilds jump shot|
|Joshua: Povetkin my second-toughest fight|
|Relaxed Pochettino not pushing panic button|
|Why Manchester City fans must fix their relationship with the Champions League|
|Majestic Giorgi ends Wozniacki´s reign in Tokyo|
|Pochettino unwilling to risk Alli fitness|
|Bigger Champions League tests to come, warns Pogba|
|Eight for 10! - Nadeem spins his way to world-record figures|
|A 4-1 lead cut to 3-2 by VAR, but Quakes have no complaints after Atlanta defeat|
|UEFA opens disciplinary proceedings against Ronaldo|
|Joshua v Povetkin: Recapping AJ´s previous world title defences|
|Players told to ink twice over showing tattoos at Rugby World Cup in Japan|
|Mariano targeting Spain call-up after goalscoring Madrid return|
|Pandya, Axar and Thakur out of Asia Cup|
|England omit Cipriani, Tuilagi and Ashton called up|
|Can reacts to Ronaldo´s red card: We are not women|
|One Year to Go: Five Rugby World Cup debutants set to shine|
|Shy Osaka not comfortable with new-found fame|
|Belgium and World Cup winners France make FIFA rankings history|
|Ronaldo wanted to impress - Bernardeschi sympathises after Juve superstar´s red|
|Van Dijk warns Liverpool: Believe we can win trophies or stay home|
|Menezes complains of anti-Brazilian conspiracy after Dede´s VAR red|
|Diamondbacks rout Cubs to remain in postseason picture|
|Modric embraces Ballon d´Or chants as Di Francesco backs Madrid star for award|
|MLS Review: Martinez helps Atlanta stage comeback amid VAR controversy|
|Kerevi recommits to Wallabies, Reds|
|Lyon to ban fan for life after footage of Nazi salute emerges|
|Milan must respect opponents – Gattuso not underestimating Dudelange|
|Copa Libertadores Review: Zarate leads Boca, River draw|
|Mourinho: Dalot can play at Man United for more than 10 years|
|Johnson hoping to erase East Lake demons|
|´No question´ Fitzgerald faces Bears, says Cardinals´ Wilks|
|Rodgers says roughing the passer penalties are ´going the wrong direction´|
|Ravens fined $200,000 for violating communication policy|
|LeBron James set to star in ´Space Jam´ sequel|
|Ronaldo red card ´absurd´, says Pjanic|
|Kovac hails ´special´ Sanches after Bayern goal|
|Marcelino: Tearful Ronaldo said he did nothing wrong|
|Fernandinho takes blame for Man City´s Lyon loss|
|Lovren denies any wrongdoing after perjury charge|
|Plzen boss Vrba slams late mistakes|
|I almost scored as many as Messi - Tagliafico the unlikely hero for Ajax|
|Ronaldo deserves Ballon d´Or not Modric, says Casemiro|
|United fan Rafael - I´ve never lost at City|
|Davis explains abrupt mid-game NFL retirement: ´Football is not for me´|
|Lopes pays tribute to under-fire Lyon coach Genesio|
|Toulon´s Bastareaud handed five-week ban|
|Steelers WR Brown disciplined for missing meeting|
|Arteta refuses to make excuses for Manchester City´s Lyon loss|
|Allegri calls for VAR after Ronaldo´s contentious red card|
|Championship Review: Boro go second, Birmingham still winless|
|Lopetegui: Mariano took his chance|
|Juventus proved their quality after Ronaldo red card - Bonucci|
|Pogba ´class´ impresses Mourinho|
|Man City not Champions League favourites, insists Bernardo Silva|
|Isco calls for Modric to win Ballon d´Or after Champions League win|
|Wawrinka into last eight in St Petersburg|
|Goal hero Pogba is one of the best in the world - Shaw|
|Sane SOS can´t salvage sorry City display|
|Hoffenheim will learn lessons from Shakhtar draw, insists Nagelsmann|
|Valencia 0 Juventus 2: Pjanic hits the spot after Ronaldo sees red|
|Viktoria Plzen 2 CSKA Moscow 2: Krmencik heroics undone by late show|
|Benfica 0 Bayern Munich 2: Sanches returns to haunt his former club|
|Young Boys 0 Manchester United 3: Pogba double inspires Red Devils|
|Manchester City 1 Lyon 2: Cornet and Fekir stun Champions League favourites at home|
|Real Madrid 3 Roma 0: Isco stunner sets up winning start for Champions League holders|
|Ronaldo sent off on Champions League debut for Juve and may miss United reunion|
|Shakhtar Donetsk 2 Hoffenheim 2: Maycon denies Nagelsmann´s side|