Lars Boom led home a Rabobank one-two on stage three of the Tour of Britain in Stoke-on-Trent to take the overall lead from stage one winner Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad).
The Dutchman won a bunch sprint at the end of the 140km route in the Potteries as the race got back under way following Monday's cancellation on account of high winds.
A three-man break comprising Russell Hampton (Sigma Sport), who had been part of a two-man escape on the opening stage, Andrew Fenn, (An Post - Sean Kelly) and Boy van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare) got away early on and opened up an advantage of nearly three-and-a-half minutes.
But it was between the King of the Mountains summits at Ramshorn and Gun Hill midway through the stage that Team Sky started to drive the main group and close down the gap.
Indeed the pace they put into the race saw the main peloton split and as the break was reeled in, the new front group featured the entire Team Sky six-man line-up as well as strong representation from fellow WorldTour teams Leopard Trek, HTC-Highroad and Rabobank.
The next key move came from Team Sky's Alex Dowsett who kicked off the front with a little over 15km to go and attempted to repeat his recent solo victory at the Tour du Poitou-Charentes.
Coming into the final 10km he had an advantage of over 20 seconds, with HTC-Highroad doing the bulk of the work to try and bring him back.
Dowsett was only a handful of seconds ahead with 2km remaining but coming into the finish on Albion Street that front bunch was back together and it was Rabobank who had all the answers on the uphill run to the line as Boom took the stage ahead of Matthews.
Boom's victory gives him a three seconds lead over Cavendish, with Welshman Thomas a further three seconds back in third ahead of Wednesday's fourth stage which sees the race return to his home country as it covers 182km from Welshpool to Caerphilly.
The winner said afterwards: "With 200 metres to go I managed to jump over (Steve) Cummings and (Geraint) Thomas and then the corners started so they couldn't pass us anymore. My first aim was to pull for Michael (Matthews) and then I felt good so I am happy to win.
"We knew that you can't bring HTC and Cavendish or the Sky boys to the finish. We knew we would have to surprise them, and we managed to do that.
"I know that it is always tricky with the wind when you are in England. I saw the Sky guys move up to the front and it was a good point to go and we managed to get away.
"It's nice to win before the World Championships and I'll now try and defend the jersey and win the overall, that is the goal now."
On the attack
Afterwards Team Sky Sports Director Sean Yates explained his team's tactics as he said: "We could easily have sat back and enjoyed the ride but we wanted to make a race of it, try and make it as hard as possible and isolate Cav and stop him from picking up bonuses.
"The boys did a great job of doing that and everyone knew they’d been in a race today. We strung it out and the wind on the moors above Stoke caused all the splits; we then we put the boot on the other foot and made HTC chase by sending Alex on the attack with 17k to go.
"It would have been nice if he’d had some company from another team but at this race everybody is looking to ourselves and HTC and are happy to follow so it can be hard to do stuff - they know how much we want to win and they know how much Cav wants to win.
"HTC had to turn themselves inside out to get Alex back and consequently Cav had no team-mates left for the sprint and he didn’t pick up any bonuses.
"Lars Boom won the stage, Bling [Matthews] was second - there wasn't much we could do about that - but we made a race of it and Geraint took third and some bonuses. The GC is what we’re looking at, that’s what we came here for and we've moved G up so it was a good day."
Yates now wants his team to stay on the front foot during what should be another testing stage on Wednesday, explaining: "Boom’s leading and is also very good at time-trialling so in my eyes the harder the upcoming stages the better for us. We’ll try and distance those guys in that final five tomorrow and it will then be game on."
Cavendish leads the points classification after the third stage, Hampton is in front on the climbing rankings while Pieter Ghyllebert (An Post - Sean Kelly) tops the sprint standings.