The overnight leader Peter Solberg regained his advantage after briefly losing the lead during the second day of the Rally of Japan.
The Citroen driver was fastest in the 16th stage to regain the lead and stayed on top three seconds clear of Ford Focus driver Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Ogier's Citroen.
World Rally Championship points leader Sebastien Loeb of France was sixth, about a minute nd a half down.
Solberg lost the lead on the 13th stage after a jump-start penalty, allowing Jari-Matti Latvala to snatch a 4.1 second advantage, leaving him in third place.
But the Norwegian was the quickest in the 14th, 16th and 17th stages to bounce back into the lead.