Four days stand between Team GB cyclist Bradley Wiggins and a first British victory in the Tour de France after the Team Sky leader survived the searing heat and repeated attacks to keep a commanding lead in the yellow jersey.
The 99th edition of cycling's most fabled race hinges on Thursday's 143.5-kilometre 17th stage from Bagneres-de-Luchon to the summit at Peyragudes, when Wiggins (Team Sky) will wear the maillot jaune for a 10th day and again expects to have to repel attempted assaults from Vincenzo Nibali.
The 197km 16th stage from Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon was won by Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), with Wiggins finishing alongside Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Team Sky colleague Chris Froome.
Froome remained second overall, two minutes five seconds behind, with Nibali 18 seconds further adrift and no other rider within five minutes of Wiggins.
Wiggins is not yet ready to be crowned champion, but his rivals appear to have conceded defeat.
The 32-year-old triple Olympic champion said: "I don't think that the others have eased up trying to beat me and start thinking of the other places on the podium. Not yet. They gave us a good go over on the climbs and tomorrow is another day, another challenge.
"We've created the ideal scenario by putting even more time into Cadel Evans and although we weren't able to get rid of Nibali, who is very strong, it was a great day."
Nibali attacked twice on the day's final climb, the Col du Peyresourde, but Wiggins and Froome worked together to bridge the gap and the Italian appears resigned to settling for second best.
"Sky were too strong. I'm aiming for the podium," Nibali said.
"I'd still like to win the stage tomorrow, but it's getting too hard to open the door."