The HTC-Highroad rider pounced in the final 200m of the 193km route from Limoux to Montpellier to claim the 19th stage victory of his career.
Cavendish, 26, is now equal sixth in the all-time list of stage winners in the legendary race, with the only man ahead of him from the last 25 years being seven-time champion Lance Armstrong.
Yesterday’s triumph ensured the Isle of Man racer retained the green jersey and puts him in pole position to win it for the first time when the Tour reaches its climax in Paris at the weekend.
Cavendish praised his team, who put him in position after the peloton had reeled in a breakaway by Quick Step’s Niki Terpstra.
“The guys are like motorbikes,” he said. “It was a difficult and technical finish today. The guys kept together. They’re an incredible group, I’m so, so proud of them.”
Cavendish, who beat American Tyler Farrar, of Garmin-Cervelo, and Alessandro Petacchi, of Lampre-ISD, in the dash for the line, now boasts a 37-point lead over green jersey rival Jose Joaquin Rojas with six race days left.
Frenchman Thomas Voeckler, of Europcar, retained the yellow jersey and maintained his lead of one minute and 49 seconds over Frank Schleck, of Leopard-Trek.