Chris Froome is poised to win the Tour of Oman for the second year in succession after climbing into the overall lead with a solo victory on stage five's summit finish on the Green Mountain.
The Team Sky rider launched his decisive attack with around 1.5km of the 5.7km ascent remaining and crossed the line 22 seconds ahead of second-placed Tejay van Garderen and 33 seconds in front of third-placed Rigoberto Uran.
He also picked up ten bonus seconds for the win, meaning he now leads Van Garderen in the general classification by 26 seconds and Uran by 31 seconds.
With Sunday's final stage set to end in a bunch sprint, it appears only a catastrophe can prevent Froome from successfully defending the title he won last year.
He told teamsky.com afterwards: "It feels absolutely fantastic getting that win today, especially with it being the first race of my season. Coming into the race I wasn't sure exactly where my form was, but this has proved I'm where I need to be right now.
"I could see Rigo chasing me for a while, and obviously Tejay again, but I was pleased with the amount of time I was able to put into them."
The climb up the Green Mountain came at the end of a 147.5km stage starting in BidBid, and Team Sky took up the pace-setting on the front of the peloton as soon as the road began to rear up.
Froome's team-mate Sergio Henao mounted a provisional attack 2km out that forced Van Garderen (BMC) and Robert Gesink (Belkin) to chase, and as soon as they caught the Colombian, Froome launched his own response, quickly catching and passing the trio on his way to a peerless triumph.
He added: "I'm really, really happy to be back in the leader's jersey. We came into this race with much less stress than previously, and no massive expectations, but to be able to do what we have done here today is fantastic and it all bodes well for the season to come."
Stage five result
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 3:49:53
2 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC, +22secs
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +33
4 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, +38
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin, +47
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +51
7 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ, +56
8 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +59
9 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, +1:09
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo, +1:15
16 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +1:45
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 18:36:45
2 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC, +26secs
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +31
4 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, +48
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin, +57
6 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +1:01
7 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, +1:19
8 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo, +1:25
9 Johann Tschopp (Swi) IAM Cycling, +1:32
10 Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha, +1:34
12 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +1:51