Thor Hushovd powered home in a sprint finish to win the fourth stage of the Tour de France in Joigny and propel himself into second place overall.
Hushovd held off Robbie Hunter to win
On another flat stage, a breakaway of five riders escaped after an hour, only to be swept up in the final 10km.
Fabian Cancellara remains in yellow but saw his lead cut by two seconds.
David Millar dropped to fourth overall while Mark Cavendish posted another creditable top-ten finish and Bradley Wiggins is now in sixth position.
Scotsman Millar picked up two more points on the first climb of the day, but fell to third behind Sylvain Chavanel in the race for the polka-dot jersey.
In a scrappy climax, Hushovd narrowly pipped Robert Hunter for the victory, after being given the perfect lead-out by team-mate Julian Dean.
Following a slow start out of Villers-Cotterets, Juan Antonio Flecha, Gorka Verdugo, Matthieu Sprick, Sylvain Chavanel and Christian Knees broke away after 30km.
Saving their energy for the Alps at the weekend, the peloton allowed the five men to open up a four-minute gap and take the day's first intermediate sprint.
The CSC team appeared intent on reeling in the break after two hours, at one point reducing the gap to just over a minute, but the five riders worked well together to reinstate their advantage.
Chavanel and Flecha were prominent in the remaining sprints and climbs, knowing that even if they were caught, the time bonuses would significantly improve their overall standings.
As the race entered the final 50km, the peloton picked up the pace, gaining on the break at a rate of 10 seconds per kilometre.
And shortly after the 10km-to-go banner, along the banks of the Yonne river, it was all over for the escapees.
The long, straight run to the finish was perfect for the sprinters, and Hushovd made the most of his team-mate's lead-out.
"Julian did a terrific job, I had complete confidence in him," he said.
"When you saw what he did setting off 450m out, you could say that he was the best in the world for setting up a sprint."
The breakaway was not without reward for Chavanel, whose time bonuses from the intermediate sprints mean he leaps from 23rd place to seventh, 44 seconds behind Cancellara in the overall standings.
And the Frenchman's climbing points also launched him into second place, on seven points, in the king of the mountains competition, behind Stephane Auge on nine.
Belgian Tom Boonen finished ninth, extending his lead in the race for the sprinters' green jersey, with Robbie McEwen slipping to third behind Erik Zabel.
Meanwhile French climbing specialist Remy Di Gregorio had to withdraw from the race after fracturing his elbow during the fourth stage.
Stage four result:
Villers-Cotterets - Joigny, 193km
1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 4 hrs 37 mins 47 secs
2. Robert Hunter (SA) Barloworld @ 0 secs
3. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank @ 0 secs
4. Erik Zabel (Ger) Millram @ 0 secs
5. Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lamprey @ 0 secs
6. Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quickstep @ 0 secs
7. Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner @ 0 secs
8. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep @ 0 secs
9. Sebastien Chavanel (Fra) Francaise des Jeux @ 0 secs
10. Mark Cavendish (GB) T-Mobile @ 0 secs
48 David Millar (GB) Saunier Duval @ 0 secs
80 Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld @ 0 secs
123 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Cofidis @ 0 secs
153 Charlie Wegelius (GB) Liquigas @ 0 secs
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 19 hrs 49 mins 55 secs
2. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole @ 29 secs
3. Andreas Kloeden (Ger) Astana @ 33 secs
4. David Millar (GB) Saunier Duval @ 41secs
5. George Hincapie (US) Discovery Channel @ 43 secs
6. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Cofidis @ 43 secs
7. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis @ 44 secs
8. Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel @ 45 secs
9. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step @ 46 secs
10. Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne @ 46 secs
47 Geraint Thomas (GB) Barloworld @ 1 min 7 secs
86 Charlie Wegelius (GB) Liquigas @ 1 min 16 secs
173 Mark Cavendish (GB) T-Mobile @ 3 mins 57 secs