David Dixon eased into a one-shot lead after a dramatic conclusion to the third round of the Formby Hall Challenge that turned the tournament on its head.
As the sun shone after a showery morning, Sweden’s Raimo Sjoberg, the overnight leader, looked like taking a three-stroke advantage into the closing day. But suddenly Dixon birdied the 17th and 18th for a 67 and 205, to get within a shot on 11 under par.
As Dixon returned his card, the Swede, who had been progressing without the hint of a problem, ran into trouble, bogeying the short 16th from sand, then dropping another shot with three putts from the fringe of the final green. It meant a 70 for 10 under par 206.
"These things happen," said a philosophical Sjoberg, whose only previous Challenge Tour victory was three years ago in the Gula Sidorna Grand Prix. "But for those closing holes the day was perfect. But I'm still in there and there are 18 holes to play."
The late swing round provided the day with a sting in the tail when it seemed to be meandering along, while Dixon is on the verge of his maiden title success that would transform his season and give him a chance of securing a European Tour card.
The West Countryman, who was surprised to hear of his rival's setbacks, said: "My putting has been very good this week. I had a tip from Gary Birch and it's worked brilliantly. I've squared up the face of the putter and it means I'm more deadly on the greens.
"When I started the round I just wanted to give myself chances. I wanted to make sure that when I hit a good shot I made the most of it. I played solid and never looked like making too many mistakes. Now it would be nice to pull off a good result."
Ivo Giner, who is seeking his first tour victory since the 1997 Open dei Tessali, is two strokes behind Dixon in third place on 207 after matching his 67 with two birdies in the closing three holes. The 26 year old Spaniard didn’t drop a shot while running in five birdies.
“I was very consistent today but I didn’t hole a lot of putts,” he said. “I finished joint second in Madeira and played well on the Challenge Tour in Austria, but a win would be nice if I can play the same tomorrow."
Matthew Blackey, is fourth on 208, eight under, after a 69, while another Englishman, Andrew Raitt eagled the last also for 69 and fifth spot on 209.
Stuart Davis, who began the day in second place a shot behind Sjoberg, fell back with 73 for 210, as did David Griffiths, also with 73 for 211.
Ryder Cup men Paul Broadhurst and Steven Richardson were others to sign for 69 and 214 and 213 respectively.