Tadej Pogacar edged out Jonas Vingegaard to win stage 17 of the Tour de France - but was unable to break the race leader on an epic mountain stage.
Defending champion Pogacar won the uphill sprint but only cut Vingegaard's overall lead by four bonus seconds.
The Dane now leads by two minutes and 18 seconds going into Thursday's final mountain stage from Lourdes to Hautacam.
Britain's Geraint Thomas finished fourth to stay third overall.
Stage 17 to Peyragudes was the shortest road stage of the tour but one of the most demanding, with the 129.7km route from Saint-Gaudens containing four categorized climbs in the final 76km.
Pogacar's UAE Emirates team had been reduced to just four members after Rafal Majka was forced to withdraw because of a thigh injury he sustained on stage 16, while an unwell Marc Soller missed the cut-off time on Tuesday.
But despite their latest setback, they set a brutal pace throughout, and nearing the end of the final climb only the top two in the general classification and Pogacar's team-mate Brandon McNulty, who came third on the day, remained.
McNulty took over after a Trojan effort by Mikkel Bjerg had ripped the race apart and pressed on to the top of the penultimate climb on the Col de Val Louron-Azet, whittling the lead group down to just three with over 20km remaining.
The final ascent to Peyragudes - an 8km climb with an average gradient of 7.8% - concluded on the altiport runway, reaching inclines of 16% near the finish.
It was there that the latest duel for supremacy between Pogacar and Vingegaard was played out, once McNulty's efforts eventually came to an end in the final few hundred meters.
Pogacar timed his final move to perfection, getting the better of Vingegaard to clinch his third stage win and the 10-second time bonus, as the race leader had to settle for the six-second bonus on offer for second place.
"He came with some good attacks today," Vingegaard said of Pogacar. "I'm happy I could stay with him. On a finish like this, he is more explosive than I am."
Asked about winning the stage with a reduced team, Pogacar said: "We can all be proud. We cannot try more. We see tomorrow as another chance but for now, I am happy that I won today."
On whether he can still win the Tour de France, he added: "Yes. I am optimistic. I think tomorrow is another hard day and we can try again tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Thomas finished over two minutes behind the front three but tightened his grip on a podium place as he finished well clear of the closest challenger Nairo Quintana, whom the 2018 champion now leads by two minutes and seven seconds.
"I wasn't feeling tip-top today," said Thomas. "I made the call to wait for the group behind rather than battle, go into the red, and risk blowing up and losing even more time. We were able to ride a solid pace all the way to the line."
Stage 18 on Wednesday is the final mountain test of the Tour and the 143km route from Lourdes to Hautacam includes two hors category ascents - the Col d'Aubisque and the final climb to the finish at Hautacam.
Stage 17 results
- Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) 3hrs 25mins 51secs
- Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Jumbo-Visma) same time
- Brandon McNulty (US/UAE Team Emirates) +32
- Geraint Thomas (GB/Ineos Grenadiers) +2:07
- Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz/Astana-Qazaqstan Team)+2:34
- Romain Bardet (Fra/Team DSM)+2:38
- David Gaudu (Fra/Groupama-FDJ)+3:27
- Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe) +3:32
- Louis Meintjes (SA/Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert MatEriaux) same time
- Nairo Quintana (Col/Team Arkea-Samsic)
General classification after stage 17
- Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Jumbo-Visma) 67hrs 53mins 54secs
- Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates)+2:18
- Geraint Thomas (GB/Ineos Grenadiers) +4:56
- Nairo Quintana (Col/Team Arkea-Samsic) +7:53
- David Gaudu (Fra/Groupama-FDJ) +7:57
- Romain Bardet (Fra/Team DSM) +9:21
- Louis Meintjes (SA/Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux) +9:24
- Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe) +9:56
- Adam Yates (GB/Ineos Grenadiers)+14:33
- Enric Mas (Spa/Movistar) +16:35