Team Sky's Lars-Petter Nordhaug finished fifth on the penultimate stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco to move into fourth place overall.
And there was another strong performance from team-mate Sergio Henao who crossed the line in 13th place and is now sixth on the general classification.
The stage finish in Onati saw an all-Spanish battle between the top two in the GC, Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) holding off Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel) to land his second stage win in as many days.
Rodríguez maintained his nine seconds lead over Sánchez at the top of the standings, with Robert Kišerlovski (Astana) getting some reward for a brave breakaway bid with third place on the day which moved him into the same position on the GC.
Appollonio to the fore
Kišerlovski had helped animate the final quarter of the 183 kilometres stage from Bera after kicking clear of a nine-man escape group which had formed 58km out when Team Sky's Davide Appollonio, Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Adriano Malori (Lampre-ISD) were joined by a further six riders.
They held a gap of around 30 seconds which forced Katusha and Euskaltel to take up the chase and it was on the Alto de Asentzio, the last categorised climb of the day which came 25km from the finish, where Kišerlovski made his move.
He had a 40 seconds advantage with 20km to go and coming into the final 10km the gap appeared to be holding steady at around 30 seconds.
However a steep but unclassified ramp in the last 5km saw Rodríguez and Sánchez jump out of the pack and quickly chase down the Croatian.
That trio had it between them heading to the finish and it was Rodríguez who had the necessary reserves to edge out Sánchez, with Kišerlovski two seconds back in third.
A much-reduced pack was strung out behind and Vasil Kiryienka (Movistar), Nordhaug (Team Sky), Daniele Ratto (Liquigas) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) were the next four riders home, a further three seconds back.
Nordhaug is fourth on the GC at 33 seconds, one second and two places ahead of Henao who was in a small but select group 10 seconds behind Rodríguez after again being near the head of affairs when the peloton began to splinter.
Michael Rogers was 36 seconds adrift and is now 21st overall, 2:01 back, while a gutsy ride from Appollonio saw him cross the line 39 seconds behind in 29th.
It all means Team Sky top the team classification, holding a four seconds advantage over Katusha.
It all left Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist happy with another solid day's work from his riders as he talked us through the stage, saying: "The plan was to put Thomas [Löfkvist] and [Salvatore] Puccio in the break and they really tried to get in the right move; Thomas was away a couple of times but it wasn’t easy and the race was pretty much on from kilometre zero.
"Unfortunately we missed the big group which first went so straight away we started to ride. It wasn't a great situation for anyone near the top of the GC so we got some help from other teams and the guys did really well to bring it back straight away.
"And then we had Appo in the next group which went which was ideal.
"At the finish Lars-Petter and Sergio were both strong again – let’s hope they can finish it off with a good TT tomorrow."
The time trial which rounds off the race on Saturday is an 18.9km loop around Onati and Ljungqvist, who had a detailed look at the route shortly after the conclusion of stage five, reckons it's anything but straightforward.
He told us: "We’ve just been looking at the course now and it’s not a normal TT – it’s going to be brutal; short, steep climbs, very narrow roads and tricky downhills.
"There is a section in the middle where you can really ride but it’s very technical and not the sort of TT we’re used to."