Bernhard Eisel went on the attack at the Tour of Qatar to move himself up to fifth overall on stage five.
The Austrian contested the second intermediate sprint and picked up two precious bonus second to jump up two places on the general classification with one stage remaining.
After launching his sprint Eisel opted to continue his attack with Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing), the duo building up a 30-second buffer alongside Niki Terpstra, sent to cover the move on behalf of Omega Pharma – Quick-Step.
The result puts Eisel 24 seconds back on leader Mark Cavendish with one stage remaining, the Manxman (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) making it three stage wins in a row to extend his grip on the gold jersey.
Also in the mix in the sprint into Madinat Al Shamal was Luke Rowe who placed a fine fifth, narrowly bested by Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ), Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE) and compatriot Adam Blythe (BMC Racing).
Cavendish now holds a 15-second lead heading into the final stage with Team Sky still packing out the places in the lower top 10 – Edvald Boasson Hagen, Rowe and Geraint Thomas occupying places eight through 10.
Mathew Hayman was unfortunately not able to take the start, relinquishing a place in the top 10 following injuries sustained in a late crash on Wednesday.
In what was seen as the last real test of the race before Friday’s finale, the riders were made to work over 154 kilometres to the north of Qatar.
With a break heading away to contest the first intermediate sprint the race briefly split into five echelons behind, Boasson Hagen forced to battle back to the front group as things finally came back together.
Order was restored before, with 26.5km remaining, the peloton crossed the line on the finishing circuit for the second time. Cavendish jumped out to take the sprint and three seconds, with Eisel and Phinney close behind, the latter pair choosing to kick on with a gutsy attack.
Finally swept up with 14km to go the lead-out trains arrived at the front and it would be Cavendish who continued his winning streak in the desert.
After the stage we caught up with Sport Director Servias Knaven, who was full of praise for Eisel's efforts.
He said: “Bernie was great today. He is going really well at the moment. He is always good at this race but he is even better this year. He is really motivated and has been showing a lot of initiative.”
Knaven was also happy with the performance of the team as a whole, and outlined their ambitions for tomorrow's final stage.
He added: “They all tried to go in the break and get some bonifications. It was a hard race and they were racing really well today and got in the breaks.
“There were quite a few flat tyres today because of stones on the road, so it was quite a hectic day.
“Then, at the end of the day, we did the sprint for Luke but we were just a bit too late for the top three. It was a good sprint from Luke and it would have been nice to have been on the podium and get some bonifications, but it didn’t quite work out.
“Tomorrow, we are going to try to move up a few places in the GC. There are some time bonifications left and we are going to try to get them. If Bernie can move up a little bit, that would be perfect.
“We are definitely still going to make a play. We have still got to decide what the exact plan is, but it will be an interesting day.”