Auckland - Telefonica continued their relentless pursuit of the leg four leaders in the Volvo Ocean Race on Monday, clawing back crucial miles.
Telefonica, winners of the first three legs, were all but written off after a slow start to the run from Sanya, in China, to Auckland, in New Zealand.
But a daring decision to split from the leaders and go west through the Solomon Islands has breathed new life into their challenge.
The Spanish team were in third place on Monday, just over 100 nautical miles off the pace set by France's Groupama and around 50 nautical miles behind the American team Puma.
The six teams are converging on the island of New Caledonia, which will act as a turning mark as they head towards Auckland.
"To think that Telefonica has again converted an incredibly difficult position, starting 200 miles to leeward, into being just 50 miles behind us in distance to finish terms, it's agitatingly impressive," said Puma's American crewmember Amory Ross.
"But our turf war is far from over. That (western) trio still have a long way upwind towards New Caledonia and it's there we'll truly know how we've fared."
For leg leaders Groupama the finish line cannot come soon enough.
"Still five days to go?" said Swedish bowman Martin Krite. "When you are leading it is even worse than waiting for Christmas."
The leg will finish around March 8-10 in Auckland, with the race continuing around the world to a finish in Galway, Ireland in July.
Overall standings after three of nine offshore legs:
1. Telefonica (Spain) 101 points; 2. Camper/ETNZ (New Zealand) 83; 3. Groupama (France) 73; 4. Puma (US) 53; 5. Abu Dhabi (UAE) 43; 6. Sanya (China) 17