Colin Montgomerie, Europe's Number One for the past seven seasons, takes a one-shot lead into the final round of the Novotel Perrier Open de France after a magnificent round of 65, seven under par, at Le Golf National.
After completing his delayed second round in the early morning Montgomerie returned to the course to fire five birdies in a front nine of 31. He then added another two birdies on the back nine to move to 12 under par in his bid to win his first title of the year.
He lies a shot ahead of New Zealand's Michael Campbell, winner of both the Heineken and Johnnie Walker Classics this season and another two tournaments on the Australasian Tour, and England's Jonathan Lomas, playing in the final group for the first time.
Montgomerie was outstanding on the front nine knowing he needed to shoot in the low 60's to get himself into position for the final round and once into a leading position he put together a solid homeward stretch. His shot of the day came on the 17th when he hit a five wood 220 yards to set up a birdie three following a one hour delay as a lightning storm passed overhead. That moved him clear of Campbell and Lomas and, despite flying through the green on the last into the water, the Scot saved par for his seventh successive round under par with Bernhard Langer's caddie Pete Coleman on the bag.
Montgomerie said: "I was thinking I'll play 17 and 18 in eight shots and that's what I've got to think about now. Instead of the other way round I birdied 17 and you don't do that very often but threw it in the water on the last. That was disappointing but at the same time I played the two holes in eight shots and with a 65 I can't be disappointed.
"The aim on the first three days is to get to contention. The first day didn't work out so well but the second and third days have. I'm in contention and that's all I can do. I got myself in position on Saturday last week but it didn't happen. I shot 71 the last day which wasn't good enough and hopefully I'll do better tomorrow."
Campbell picked up four birdies in his round of 69 to move to 11 under par with Montgomerie firmly in his sights. After his two European Tour victories this season Campbell is currently third in the Volvo Order of Merit behind Darren Clarke and Ernie Els but his target is the top spot.
"I can feel the engine getting warmer and warmer," he said. "It's clocked a few miles now so it's getting better. Today I played quite nicely. A lot better than I had played the last couple of days, but I missed a few putts today.
"It's going to be fun. It's another stepping stone for me to go head-to-head with the third best player in the world - Montgomerie."
Campbell is also out for revenge after losing out on all their four or five previous head-to-head encounters and for losing £2,000 to him in 1995 after betting the Scot £100 per round.
He said: "It all started with the World Cup with £100 the All Blacks would beat Scotland. The All Blacks won so he wanted the money back. It started snowballing. I was being cocky in my rookie season and I was doing well and I thought I had a chance. Ended up losing about £2,000 in the space of five months and I thought that was okay."
Lomas, whose only European Tour victory came in the 1996 Chemapol Trophy Czech Open, added a 69 to his 64 in the second round, the benefits of a putting lesson from Peter Mitchell paying dividends. After dropping a shot on the first, Lomas fired four birdies in five holes to the turn and, after dropping shots on the 10th and 12th, picked up another two shots to return to 11 under.
"Happy with that," he said. "It will be an even more nerve-wracking experience tomorrow. I've not been in that situation for some time. The guys I am playing with are used to playing in that position."
Two shots further back on nine under are Spain's Fernando Roca, Scotland's Andrew Coltart and Australian Rodger Davis, who is bidding to become the oldest winner on the European Tour just 12 days short of his 49th birthday.