|France's very own Thomas Voeckler fought for his life to keep the yellow jersey [EPA]
Andy Schleck roared to victory on the history-making 18th stage featuring the highest ever finish in Tour de France history on Thursday.
But the Luxembourger's bid for the overall lead was thwarted by Thomas Voeckler.
The French rider put up a successful effort to retain the yellow jersey on the punishing second of three day's riding in the Alps, crossing the 2,645 metre Col du Galibier summit in fifth.
Schleck, who began the day 2min 36sec behind Voeckler, gambled with a solo attack on the gruelling 23km climb up Galibier, and he rounded the final bend with yellow in his grasp.
But Voeckler gritted his teeth to hold onto the lead by only 15sec.
Schleck's brother, Frank, took second in the stage to be third in the overall standings, 1:08 adrift, with Australian Cadel Evans, third to cross the line, 1:12 off the lead in fourth.
Alberto Contador, bidding for a fourth successive title, was the day's biggest loser.
The Spaniard started out on the gruelling 200.5km run in sixth, 3:15 off the pace, but dropped back to seventh to lie 4:44 behind Voeckler after failing to keep tabs with his main yellow jersey contenders in the closing kilometres.
That could well be game over for the controversial Saxo Bank rider, but for Evans it is still very much game on, with Friday's closing day in the Alps to come and Saturday's penultimate 20th stage time trial.
| Cadel Evans will be the favourite to win the Tour de France after Contador fell further behind [EPA]
Andy Schleck arrived on top of Galibier, which first featured in the Tour in 1911, with a 2:07 advantage on his brother Frank, with Evans 2:15 back.
Explaining why he had gone for broke the stage winner said: "I don't want to finish fourth in Paris, and I said to myself 'I'm going to risk everything, it'll work or it'll fail'."
"That's the way I am, I'm not afraid of losing. And if my legs were hurting out in front I knew the others would be hurting to catch me up."
He added: "I've won the stage, I'm into second overall, perhaps tomorrow it'll be the yellow jersey. I wanted to take the jersey but Thomas (Voeckler) surprised everyone, it's great for cycling."
Friday's 19th stage is a 109.5km ride from Modane to Alpe d'Huez and features another climb up Galibier.