Chris Froome pulled out a sensational performance to win stage five at the Tour of Oman and extend his race lead.
The Brit was placed under immense pressure in the closing stages by Alberto Contador, but dug deep to not only retain his lead, but win the three-man sprint at the finish in fine style.
A brutally tough penultimate stage saw the peloton split to pieces after Team Sky had worked tirelessly to set Froome up over three passes of the Bousher Alamrat climb.
Second on the day, Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) had made his intentions known with repeated attacks on the stage, with the general classification contenders aware that this was realistically the last opportunity to put time into Froome.
Only Froome and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) could hang on and the trio attacked each other on the run into the finish at the Ministry of Housing.
Lying second overnight, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) arrived home four seconds later in a six-man chase group, the peloton decimated after a tough day of racing. Froome now holds a 27-second lead over Contador with one flat final stage remaining on Saturday.
He said: "It was a really exciting finish coming down to a sprint between me, Alberto and Rodriguez. Luckily I just managed to get the better of them on the line.
"Tomorrow hopefully the sprinters' teams will take advantage of the flatter profile and it should end in a sprint if all goes to plan. I have extended my lead to 27 seconds so it puts us in a good place going into tomorrow's stage."
The penultimate stage always looked likely to be a testing one, but few realised just how testing as the peloton headed towards three relentless climbs of the Bousher Alamrat.
Saxo-Tinkoff were among the teams to put a rider up the road in an eight-man break which headed off early into the 144km test.
Team Sky controlled the front of the peloton on behalf of Froome as the climbs approached, the race splitting up first time over the peak, before completely exploding second time up - an elite group of 22 all that remained of the peloton.
Just as he had done a day earlier, Contador was the first to light the blue touch paper and attack, putting in a burst of acceleration which put Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) into difficulties. The move was shut down over the top of the second summit.
A strong chase group featuring the likes of Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins and world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) also massed ranks behind to start to cut the gap, yet up ahead Contador had other ideas and attacked again.
Froome was forced into action for the second time as he looked to claw his way back, finally making contact over the final summit alongside Rodriguez, the trio surviving to the line, where it was Froome who finished in style.
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 3:29.19; 2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo-Tinkoff, same time; 3 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, st; 4 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE, +4secs; 5 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st; 6 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st; 7 Johann Tschopp (Sui) IAM Cycling, st; 8 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC, st; 9 Jesus Hernandez (Spa) Saxo-Tinkoff, st; 10 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +8
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 20:04.13; 2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo-Tinkoff, +27secs; 3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC, +39; 4 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, +50; 5 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +1.13; 6 Johann Tschopp (Sui) IAM Cycling, same time; 7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +1.19; 8 Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ, +1.34; 9 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +1.44; 10 Maxime Bouet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +2.00