Another stage win for Greipel
German sprinter Andre Greipel won for a second successive day with victory on the 196.5-kilometre fifth stage from Rouen to Saint-Quentin.
A day after winning stage four to Rouen after avoiding a late crash, Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) again prevailed when a collision fractured the peloton with around 3km to go.
Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) was second, with Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) third, Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) fourth and world champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) fifth.
Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) retained the overall lead by seven seconds from Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), with defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) 17 seconds adrift in seventh place.
"That was one of the hardest sprints I've ever done in my career," Greipel said. "I don't know how I managed to get back up to the front group because somehow I could avoid the crash of (Tyler) Farrar. "And then (team-mate Greg) Henderson was waiting for me and the Lotto-Belisol train was working perfectly again.
"The team set up the sprint for me and I just had some power left."
Cavendish's Team Sky were more prominent than in previous days in the finale and the plan was justified as another late crash fractured the field with around 3km to go.
Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), a stage winner in 2011, fell to the ground and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) was among those to feel the impact of the domino effect. Sagan eventually finished 154th and Farrar 194th and last.
The day always seemed destined to end in a sprint finish, even when Jan Ghyselinck (Cofidis), who was part of the day's four-man escape, attacked in the final kilometre.
He was eventually overhauled and Greipel was able to power away to victory, with Cavendish among those left in his wake.
For the second successive day Cavendish was denied the opportunity to draw level with Lance Armstrong and Andre Darrigade on 22 stage wins.
Another opportunity should arise on the 207.5km sixth stage from Epernay to Metz, which is also likely to end in a mass sprint.
Sagan's involvement in the crash helped Cavendish to trim the Slovakian's lead in the points classification standings.
Cavendish led the peloton over the intermediate sprint mark, 87.5km from the end of the day's route to claim 11 points behind the four-man escape.
Coupled with his fifth place at the finish, Cavendish claimed 33 points for the day to move to 119 overall, 36 behind in fourth.
Sagan claimed eight to edge to 155 points overall, with Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) second on 137 and Greipel third on 132.
"I am angry because I lost points," Sagan said.
"When I came to the finish I was not scared. What's there to be afraid of? I was just angry. Then one of my team-mates, Sylvester Szmyd, lent me a wheel in order to race again. But it was too late to participate in the sprint."
While the green jersey race is tight, the battle for the maillot jaune worn by Cancellara since his victory in Saturday's prologue is set to intensify as the mountains and Monday's time-trial approach.
Cancellara has now become the rider to wear the yellow jersey for the longest duration without winning the Tour, surpassing the previous record from over 60 years ago held by Rene Vietto.
He said: "It's always a pleasure to ride in the yellow jersey and, plus, to make history like I have today is pretty awesome.
"I think winning once and then having the yellow jersey for so many days is a great opportunity and we seized it and took advantage of it.
"The thought of actually winning the Tour de France is not realistic. "The Tour is not what I have in my list of goals to win. The Tour is a dream and a dream is not a goal. A goal like that is something other riders have - from Frank Schleck to (Andreas) Kloden, to Wiggins and Cadel.
"I just live something else, I have the yellow jersey for 26 days now and that's good."