Jordi Garcia Pinto is one step closer to a second European Challenge Tour title after the Spaniard held firm to maintain his two-shot advantage heading into the final day of the Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open.
The Girona player carded a level par third round of 71 to stay two clear on six under par, followed closely by his compatriot Carlos Aguilar after a three under par 68 moved him to outright second place on four under for the tournament.
Garcia Pinto, currently leading the Challenge Tour Rankings by just €807, did not get off to the ideal start, bogeying the first.
A birdie at the third was followed by another dropped shot at the fifth but, just as Italians Andrea Rota and Lorenzo Gagli began to put the pressure on, Garcia Pinto stormed two shots clear once again courtesy of a trio of successive birdies from the seventh.
That took him to the turn in two under par and to eight under for the tournament, but the 2013 Barclays Kenya Open winner, who is attached to European Tour Destination and Open de España venue PGA Catalunya Resort, struggled on the way back as the swirling breeze picked up late in the afternoon.
Bogeys at the tenth and the 17th meant he fell back to six under, setting up a thrilling final day as 15 players lie within five shots of the lead at Aa Saint Omer Golf Club.
“Today was much more complicated than yesterday because there was more wind,” said the 24 year old. “It was changing all the time too so it was tough to decide where it was coming from on each hole.
“I had a couple of mistakes because of that, but that is maybe a good thing because I will learn for tomorrow and hopefully I won’t make those mistakes again.
“I hit six consecutive good shots which gave me three birdies in a row at the end of the front nine. I played really nicely on those holes so it was nice to get the results.
“Everything about my game was quite good, not as good maybe as yesterday, but I'm still happy with my game and what makes me feel good is that I think I can be better tomorrow, so I'm pleased with that.”
The Law Graduate is not worried about any outside pressures heading into the final day in northern France, instead he is just looking forward to enjoying the round, helped by the presence of his friend Aguilar.
“I'm not thinking about the result at the end of the tournament,” he said. “I just want to go out there and enjoy the round with my compatriot Carlos, and try to have a good Sunday and that’s it.
“It will definitely make it more enjoyable playing with Carlos. We played together last week in La Gomera for the first two days and it’s always a pleasure to play with a gentleman like him. We will have fun, that’s for sure.
“This course is a really good challenge. I prefer this type of course as opposed to courses where you can hit driver anywhere and still make birdies. The more difficult the course, the more I usually enjoy it so I feel really good here.”
Aguilar moved into contention courtesy of a steady round, which was lit up by an eagle two at the par four 13th hole, as the Alicante man also chases a maiden Challenge Tour title.
Englishman Chris Hanson finished with a flourish, thanks to three consecutive birdies in the final three holes, to sign for a one under par 70 and move to within three shots of the lead on three under par.
He was joined in a four-way share for third place by compatriot and former European Tour winner Ross McGowan - who will play alongside Garcia Pinto and Aguilar in the final group after recording a three under 68 - as well as American Tain Lee (70) and Italy’s Andrea Rota (72).