Sir Bradley Wiggins retained second place overall at the Giro d'Italia as home favourite Luca Paolini rode into the leader's pink jersey with a fine solo victory on stage three.
The 36-year-old Italian, who is making his Giro debut, escaped from an elite lead group 6.5km from the finish line in Marina di Ascea and hung on to win a thrilling day's racing by 16 seconds.
The 20 bonus seconds he collected mean he now heads the general classification by 17 seconds from Wiggins, who finished the stage eighth as part of a chasing pack that also included Vincenzo Nibali and Ryder Hesjedal.
Paolini said: "It is incredible to win like that and take the pink jersey as well. My father was in hospital today for a minor operation and so this pink jersey is for him.
"I suffered to stay on during the climb and tried to ride at my pace. I knew there was a little climb near the finish and know I can descend pretty well. I went for it. I rode as if it was a Classic. I knew I could take pink if I won. I did it."
The day had not been expected to produce fireworks among the race favourites, but a series of attacks on the final climb of the day and then subsequent descent to the finish resulted in a compelling finale.
The first came 5km from the summit of Sella di Catona, 26km out, when an injection of pace split the peloton and created a lead group of about 30 riders containing the likes of Wiggins (Team Sky), Nibali (Astana), Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), Cadel Evans (BMC) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida).
Reigning champion Hesjedal then came to the fore, first by attacking on the descent alongside Paolini (Katusha) and Valerio Agnoli (Astana), and later by setting a break-neck pace on the front after the trio had been caught.
The peloton became strung out in a long line as they struggled to keep up with the Canadian, and Wiggins was among the riders who had to ride on the limit to maintain contact.
Paolini remained right up at the front, though, and made his decisive move just as the group was beginning to bunch back together, quickly opening up a 10-second gap that he increased all the way to the finish.
Overnight race leader Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky) surrendered the pink jersey after being dropped on the final climb, along with Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step).
Stage three took the riders on a picturesque, 222km route from Sorrento to Marina di Ascea on the western coast of Italy.
A seven-man group containing broke clear of the peloton almost immediately after the start flag and built up a lead of almost seven minutes.
However, their progress slowed on the category-two climb of San Mauro Cilento, after 153km, and the gap began to tumble as a peloton led by Team Sky powered its way up the ascent.
That prompted Fabio Taborre (Vini-Fantini) to launch a solo bid to stay away and the Italian stretched out a lead of more than a minute on his fellow escapees. However, the race erupted in the main bunch behind him and he was swiftly swallowed up as the GC contenders began their attacks.
Watch highlights of the stage on Sky Sports 4 from 7pm
Stage three result
1 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha, 5:43:50
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC, +16 secs
3 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp, same time
4 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vin Fantini, st
5 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi, st
6 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha, st
7 Pieter Weening (Net) Orica-GreenEDGE, st
8 Bradley Wiggins (Gb) Team Sky, st
9 Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar, st
10 Robert Gesink (Net) Blanco Pro Cycling, st
1 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha, 9:04:32
2 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky, +17secs
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Team Sky, same time
4 Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar, +26
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +31
6 Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Astana, st
7 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin- Sharp, +34
8 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha, +36
9 Yuri Trofimov (Rus) Katusha, st
10 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, +37
Red (points classification) - Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step
Blue (mountains classifications) - Willem Wauters (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM
White (best young rider) - Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana