Boris Johnson has won the much sought-after endorsement of former Tory leadership candidate Matt Hancock, despite being attacked by his rivals for snubbing the first TV debate.
Shortly after the debate ended, the health secretary - who dropped out of the race on Friday - announced he would be backing Mr Johnson in the next round of voting by MPs on Tuesday.
"It's time to unite," Mr Hancock tweeted.
"I'm backing Boris to be the next PM on a pro-enterprise One Nation ticket."
And writing in The Times, he added: "Having considered all the options, I'm backing Boris Johnson as the best candidate to unite the Conservative Party, so we can deliver Brexit and then unite the country behind an open, ambitious, forward-looking agenda, delivered with the energy that gets stuff done."
Mr Hancock also wrote: "Boris is emphatic in public and in private that he wants to be a one nation prime minister and bring the country together around an optimistic vision for the future. I will hold him to that."
Mr Hancock's endorsement for Mr Johnson comes less than three weeks after he launched an outspoken attack against him, condemning him for saying "f*** business" during Brexit negotiations.
But the health secretary's backing is a major boost for Mr Johnson and will be a crushing blow for Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid, who had all hoped to win his support.
However, it is not clear if all of the 20 MPs who backed Mr Hancock in the first ballot of MPs will now row in behind him and support Mr Johnson.
One of them, East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masteron, has revealed he will vote for International Development Secretary Rory Stewart.
During the TV debate, Mr Johnson was taunted about his absence by Mr Hunt, who said it raised questions about his ability to take on the job of prime minister.
"Where is Boris?" said Mr Hunt.
"If his team won't allow him out with five fairly friendly colleagues, how is is he going to deal with 27 European countries?"
The other significant post-debate endorsement, from the pro-Remain digital minister Margot James, went to Mr Stewart, who will feel he performed well in the TV debate which Mr Johnson chose to snub.
As Mr Stewart, along with Mr Javid, Mr Gove and arch-Brexiteer Dominic Raab scramble for votes in a battle to stay in the race this week, next up for the candidates is hustings with political journalists at Westminster later this morning.
That will be followed by the second TV debate, which Mr Johnson has said he will attend.
But that will take place after the next round of voting by MPs and there will be fewer candidates taking part.
Mr Johnson is also unveiling new policies, including a pledge to provide fast internet for every home by 2025 and eliminate the "digital divide" if he becomes prime minister.
Writing in his Daily Telegraph column, Mr Johnson says it is "a disgrace that this country should suffer from a deep digital divide and that so many rural areas are simply left behind".
The former foreign secretary and Brexit cheerleader says closing this divide is part of his "moral mission to unite Britain".