Cavendish in pole position
Mark Cavendish opened up a clear overall lead after a strong Team Sky display on the penultimate stage of the Ster ZLM Toer.
The world champion chased home Lars Boom on the uphill finish into La Gileppe at the end of a hilly 187 kilometres route in the Ardennes which always looked like having a key bearing on the general classification.
And on an excellent day for Team Sky, Juan Antonio Flecha was third across the line to move into the same position on the GC, 14 seconds back.
Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) and Andr?reipel (Lotto-Belisol) both dropped out of the top three after losing touch with the front group.
Cavendish is also in pole position in the points classification going into Sunday's final stage as the race moves back to the Netherlands.
Saturday's foray into Belgium had seen Team Sky work hard to reel in what was left of the breakaway group.
Dion Beukeboom (De Rijke), Marco Haller (Katusha), Jaroslaw Marycz (Saxo Bank) and N?on Oliveira (RadioShack-Nissan) had jumped clear of the pack soon after the start and going up the La Redoute climb of Liege-Bastogne-Liege fame, RadioShack-Nissan pair Jan Bakelants and Ben Hermans joined up with them.
It was Bakelants who proved by far the biggest threat as he still had over a minute on the peloton on the last of the two finishing circuits.
But a huge turn from Ian Stannard (Team Sky) proved decisive and he was caught inside the final two kilometres as Boom, Cavendish and Flecha came to the fore.
Team Sky Sports Director Steven de Jongh told www.teamsky.com: "It was an awesome ride by the whole team today, very impressive.
"It was a tough, tough finish but the guys did great and Mark now has eight seconds in hand of Boom going into what's a pan-flat final stage so that's good."