(CNN) -- Alessandro Petacchi achieved back-to-back Giro d'Italia stage wins on Monday to claim the race leader's pink jersey after Mark Cavendish found his late charge checked by a big crash 10 kilometers from the line.
Italian sprinter Petacchi celebrates a second straight stage triumph to take the lead in the Giro.
Briton Cavendish appeared in good shape as he chased down the leaders in the final stages in his bid to hang on to first place in the 200-km stretch from Grado to Valdobbiadene.
But the Columbia High Road man found his path obstructed as around a dozen riders, including contender title Levi Leiphemer, came to grief -- allowing a small group including LPR's Petacchi to break free.
Cavendish initially tried to get back into the mix, but some three kilometers from the finish finally accepted that hope was gone and sat up on his bike to finish around 90 seconds behind the Italian.
The 35-year-old Petacchi, back in the line-up after serving a one-year doping ban, made it 21 career stage wins on the Giro having also denied Cavendish victory in Sunday's second stage.
He now sits in first place in the standings eight seconds ahead of Garmin-Slipstream's Tyler Farrar, who followed him over the line in second.
Petacchi left it late to make his move after the crash however, with the veteran initially allowing Marzio Bruseghin and then Giovanni Visconti to make a break for victory.
But the 35-year-old rekindled memories of his days as the world's best sprinter as he followed a burst from Filippo Pozzato to move to the front.
Farrar crossed the line in second to take the sting out of a costly day for his team as Christian Vande Velde crashed out and was taken to hospital for tests on what is said to be a deeply-bruised femur.
Lampre-NGC's Francesco Gavazzi finished in third.
Leiphemer's crash means he has failed to catch Astana team-mate Lance Armstrong in the overall standings, although he has moved up from 18th to eighth, with Armstrong now fifth.