Team Sky leader Wiggins finished safely in the peloton after a 176km rolling route in northern Italy, but was elevated into the final podium place after its previous occupier, Russia’s Pavel Kochetkov, fell off the pace and was dropped.
France’s Maxime Bouet retained the overall race lead, having spent most of the day at the front of the main bunch, and will take a 3min 19sec advantage over Team Sky’s Kanstantsin Siutsou into Friday’s final stage, with Wiggins lying 29 seconds further back.
The trio had been part of a breakaway that had started out with two men, Dario Cataldo (Team Sky) and Fabio Felline (Androni – Venezuela), but later swelled to 11 as teams looked to send men up the road and place pressure on the race leader.
The stronger escapees forced a fierce pace on a parcours that leant itself to a breakaway win and by the time they neared the summit of the last of the day’s five climbs, there was only Scarponi and Tiralongo left at the head of the race.
Santaromita fought his way back to them inside the final 15km, though, and after allowing Tiralongo to lead out the sprint 250m from the finish line, he rounded his compatriot and powered to the biggest stage win of his career.
Back down the road, Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini), who took second on stage two, attempted to gain time in the general classification by mounting a late attack, but he was swiftly reeled in.
The peloton eventually crossed the line 1min 23sec down on Santaromita, with Bouet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Wiggins, Siutsou and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) all clocking the same time.
It was a bad day for defending champion Domenico Pozzovivo, after the Italian (AG2R-La Mondiale) was forced to abandon the race following a crash and a reported elbow injury.
Stage three result
- Ivan Santaromita (Ita) BMC, 4:26.25
- Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana, same time
- Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st
- Stefano Locatelli (Ita) Bardiani Valvole – CSF Inox, +34secs
- Jose Sarmiento (Col) Cannondale, st
- Antonio Piedra (Spa) Caja Rural, st
- Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Bardiani Valvole – CSF Inox, +1.12
- Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani Valvole – CSF Inox, +1.23
- Emanuele Sella (Ita) Androni – Venezuela, st
- Miguel Angel Rubiano (Col) Androni – Venezuela, st
- Maxime Bouet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, 13:23.36
- Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team Sky, +3.19
- Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky, +3.48
- Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, 3.57
- Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini, +4.06
- Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +4.19
- Alexandr Dyachenko (Kaz) Astana, +4.20
- Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Bardiani Valvole – CSF Inox, +4.27
- Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar, +4.49
- Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida, +4.52