Teenage prodigy Rory McIlroy produced two timely eagles to take charge of the Dubai Desert Classic to remain in the hunt for a maiden professional title.
The 19 year old tapped home from just two feet on the tenth green for his second eagle of the day just as bad light brought an end to third round play at the fog affected event with the majority of the field still on the course.
McIlroy sits at the top of the leaderboard at 15 under par after playing his ten holes in three under with former champion Richard Green and in form South African Louis Oosthuizen leading the challenge two shots back.
Earlier, first round leader McIlroy had holed from 25 feet on the final green of his second round to spectacularly snatch the halfway lead as his eagle three sealed a four under 68.
Australian Green, the 1997 champion, picked up three shots in a bogey free ten holes of his third round, while Abu Dhabi and Qatar runner-up Oosthuizen birdied the tenth to remain in the hunt for his own maiden European Tour title, although he has won five times in his native South Africa.
Justin Rose also picked up a shot at the tenth to move into sole possession of fourth, with Martin Kaymer, Scott Strange, Thomas Levet and Abu Dhabi champion Paul Casey at ten under par.
Frenchman Levet fired a six under par 66 to make his move up the leaderboard and was only one of 17 out of the 68 who made the cut to complete their third rounds after six hours was lost over the opening two days to morning fog.
The World Number 39 has yet to turn the hype which has seen new Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie pick out McIlroy out as a potential candidate for Celtic Manor next year into a professional breakthrough after suffering two play-off defeats last year, but in the form which has seen him record top five finishes in his last five events, it is surely closer than ever.
“It would be a huge first victory, it’s one of the best events on Tour. For this to be my first win, if I could pull it off, it would be absolutely fantastic,” said McIlroy, who only turns 20 in May.
“But I have just got the 11th tee shot in the morning on my mind and that’s all I can do, just think about that and see what happens.
“I think I have learnt a lot from those experiences. It will stand me in good stead and hopefully if I keep playing the way I am, I’ll definitely be able to go close.”
McIlroy rates the third round eagle as the best of the two and rightly so as he plunged a five iron to within two feet for a simple tap in after earlier holing from 25 feet from the fringes of the 18th green following a cautious approach into the dangerous final green at Emirates Golf Club.
But with playing partner Oosthuizen and Green leading the chase, McIlroy is not getting carried away with another mammoth day ahead, although the ambitious Northern Irishman is looking forward to the prospect of another final day battle so soon after November’s play-off defeat at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
“Louis made birdie on seven just before me and I knew I had to just grind out the putt and I holed it for par which was nice,” he added.
“It was then a great way to finish and puts me into a great position.”