Today's seven stages of the Ordnance Survey Ireland Rally of the Lakes in Killarney saw very little between the top contenders as they battle for supremacy in this, the third round of the Irish Tarmac Championship.
Overnight, Gareth MacHale/Brian Murphy (Ford Focus WRC) lead the way, 2.2 seconds ahead of the Skoda Fabia of Eugene Donnelly/Paddy Toner with the Subaru WRC of Eamonn Boland/M.J. Morrissey a further 7.6 seconds behind in third.
Tim McNulty's Subaru was quickest through the first stage, Moll's Gap, where he extricated a 6.7 second advantage over the Ford Focus WRC of Gareth MacHale.
Eugene Donnelly was a further 8.5 seconds behind in third.
Aaron MacHale (Ford Focus WRC) was fourth and defending champion, Eamonn Boland (Subaru WRC) had to be content with fifth.
The second run over "The Gap" was cancelled due to the actions of an irresponsible spectator.
Out on S.S. 3 McNulty strengthened his lead and moved 18.3 seconds ahead of Gareth MacHale.
Donnelly closed to within 0.9 of a second of second place.
McNulty lost the lead on S.S. 4 when he slid off the road and damaged the suspension of his Subaru.
He attributed the incident to the fact that the tyres had lost their grip.
The Meath man struggled with steering problems through S.S. 5 and S.S. 6 before the matter was rectified at the service halt at Green Glens, Millstreet.
By that time, Gareth MacHale had taken over at the helm, yet it was Donnelly that was setting the pace in terms of stage times.
Just 5.1 seconds covered the top trio.
MacHale led Donnelly by 2.7 seconds with Boland, who had a slight problem with his Subaru's anti lag system - in third, 2.4 seconds behind Donnelly.
McNulty was some 33 seconds off the lead.
Alan Ring was impressive to lead the Group N category.
The penultimate test was cancelled and Donnelly closed the deficit to just 2.2 seconds when he was fastest through today's final stage.
Patrick Elliott (Subaru) retired when he slid off on S.S. 4.
Ring leads Group N and in the Modified category, Wesley Patterson (Escort) has a commanding two minute lead over Fergus O'Meara, also in an Escort.
The rally will conclude tomorrow with eight tests, including Moll's Gap, the Healy Pass and stages in the Beara Peninsula.
1. Gareth MacHale/Brian Murphy (Ford Focus WRC) 57m. 22.3s.
2. Eugene Donnelly/Paddy Toner (Skoda Fabia WRC) 57m. 24.5s.
3. Eamonn Boland/M.J. Morrissey (Subaru WRC) 57m. 32.1s.
4. Tim McNulty/David Moynihan (Subaru WRC) 57m. 56.8s.
5. Aaron MacHale/Killian Duffy (Ford Focus WRC) 58m. 09.5s.
6. Denis Cronin/Helen O'Sullivan (Subaru WRC) 59m. 58.1s.
7. Alan Ring/Adrian Deasy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 1h. 01m. 03.7s.
8. Colm Murphy/Martin Flannery (Subaru) 1h. 01m. 38.8s.
9. Alastair Fisher/Barry McNulty (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 1h. 02m. 07s.
10. Darragh O'Riordan/Sean McCarthy (Renault Clio S1600) 1h. 03m. 21.9s.