Spaniard Dani Sordo won the last three stages and four overall to build a lead of more than 17 seconds in the Rally of Sardinia on Friday.
The Hyundai driver has not scored a point in the World Rally Championship this season but won in Sardinia last year.
He took the second stage and then grabbed the lead when he was fastest by 9.4sec on the fourth stage, the last one on the morning loop. He then won the two afternoon stages.
"I am really happy to come back like this," Sordo said. "We pushed hard and made time with good tyre choices."
"We need to stay like this tomorrow, it will not be easy."
Finland's Teemu Suninen, who won the opening stage in his M-Sport Ford, lies second.
Sordo's Belgian team-mate Thierry Neuville, who stalled twice during the day, was second on the sixth and final stage of the day to take third from Frenchman Sebastien Ogier.
In the driver championship, Ogier is second to Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans.
As leader, the Welshman had to open the road on Friday.
"Just impossible," he said.
Evans did interrupt Sordo's winning streak by taking the third stage but ended the day in fifth, 51 seconds behind the leader and 16 seconds behind Ogier.
Defending champion Estonian Ott Tanak is nearly two minutes behind Sordo after struggling with suspension problems in the morning.
"Obviously in the afternoon stages everything was working fine from our side, no drama and no surprises," Tanak said. "Our position is not great, so let's see, but the guys we hope to catch are now closer to us."
The urgency of the battle for points was diminished during the day by the news that the WRC was adding a ninth leg, at Monza in December, to its pandemic-reduced 2020 calendar.
When racing began on Friday, there was only one rally scheduled after this one, in Belgium on November 19-22. By the end of the day, drivers knew they would have two more chances to collect points.