Penny Mordaunt has continued her remarkable surge in the race to be next Tory leader and prime minister, gaining 83 votes in the second ballot.
As expected, Rishi Sunak remains on top with 101 backers – as Suella Braverman was eliminated from the contest – but Ms Mordaunt continues to breathe down the former chancellor’s neck.
The foreign secretary Liz Truss remains in deep trouble after a campaign that has failed to catch alight. She gathered just 64 votes.
Kemi Badenoch remains a rival to be the candidate for the right of the party, with 49 votes – while the centrist Tom Tugendhat has slipped back, with just 32 votes.
Mr Tugendhat will now come under pressure to pull out of the contest, but has suggested he will fight on in the hope of impressing in the weekend live TV debates.
Ms Braverman scored just 27 votes, which the Truss camp will be desperate to grab over the next few days before the third ballot on Monday.
The first stage of the contest will not end until next Wednesday – unless someone drops out – when Tory party members will choose between the two surviving candidates.
A bombshell poll on Wednesday gave the little-known Ms Mordaunt a huge lead among the grassroots – who appear to favour a clean break with cabinet ministers tainted by Boris Johnson’s reign.
Mr Sunak’s camp claimed it was “pleased” with the result and argued rivals are shifting their positions, a source saying: “Some of the other candidates are now starting to back off what they said before.”
The former chancellor would not be engaging in “those funny games some people have suggested”, the source insisted – amid suggestions that votes could be “lent” to Ms truss, to knock out Ms Mordaunt.
That looks highly unlikely anyway, given Mr Sunak would have hoped to have secured many more than 101 supporters by this stage.