Peter Kennaugh extended his lead on stage two of the Herald Sun Tour near Melbourne as he finished third behind Australia's Caleb Ewan.
Ewan, 26, crossed the line in Moe over a bike length ahead of American Tanner Putt, his ninth win of 2016.
Isle of Man rider Kennaugh was three seconds behind, but increased his advantage over Team Sky team-mate Chris Froome to 13 seconds.
"In the end, I just stayed on the front and rode in," he said.
"It was always going to be hard to shake Caleb off and I thought I could catch him off guard but he stuck to my wheel."
The five-day event finishes at Arthurs Seat, Victoria on Sunday.
And Kennaugh added: "I'm quite excited for Sunday's race to be honest. Hopefully we can just take it up on the climb and either me or Froome will be up for another stage win."
Stage winner Ewan said the climax of the race was much tougher than the usual sprint finishes.
"On the final climb I knew [Jack] Bobridge and Kennaugh were strong, they've proven that so I knew I couldn't let them get a gap over the top," he added.
"I fought for dear life and was able to stay with them."