Lemes started the day just two-tenths of a second behind Suarez, with newly-crowned champion Tidemand in touch in third.
But both rolled their Ford Fiesta R2 cars into retirement on the same corner of the long El Priorat stage in the morning to leave Lemes with a strong advantage.
He holds a 2min 26.1sec lead over Norway’s Marius Aasen, also at the wheel of a Hankook-shod, GEM-fuelled Fiesta R2. Victory would guarantee Lemes the runner-up spot in the championship.
“It’s been a bit of a crazy day, but after some bad luck in the last two events it seems good fortune has finally come my way,” said Lemes. “When I found myself with a big lead I just drove steadily to avoid the risk of punctures, but on the penultimate stage I sensed there might actually be a problem with the car so backed off even more.
“There’s wasn’t anything to be concerned about though. Everything is OK and I just need to keep my concentration and hope to make it to the end unperturbed,” he said.
Aasen was sixth after Friday’s opening leg but four top two stage times, including one win, elevated him to second almost 47sec clear of Estonia’s Sander Parn. Little more than half a minute covers Martin Koci, Murat Bostanci and Michael Burri behind Parn.