Northern Ireland teenager Rory McIlroy carded a third round five under par 67 to maintain his two stroke advantage at the Dubai Desert Classic.
The 19 year old grabbed a birdie at the final hole to move to 17 under par, two clear of in-form South African Louis Oosthuizen, who had briefly trimmed the lead to one shot a hole earlier.
The Abu Dhabi and Qatar runner-up signed for a third round 68 to sit second, a shot clear of England’s Justin Rose and 1997 champion Richard Green of England, who both signed for rounds of 69.
The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship winner Paul Casey of England also picked up a shot at the final green to card a 68, which saw him join another former champion Henrik Stenson on 12 under.
The Dubai-based Swede will hope a bogey at the final hole, where he dropped his approach shot into the water and then missed a makeable par putt, will not prove crucial in his bid to follow up his 2007 triumph.
After six hours were lost over the opening two days due to early morning fog, McIlroy resumed his third round on the 11th tee this morning, after last night opening up a two stroke cushion at the top of the leaderboard courtesy of a spectacular eagle at the tenth hole before bad light brought a premature halt to proceedings.
But the break did not halt the teenager’s bid to claim a maiden European Tour title, as he birdied his first hole of the day – though he then had to wait until his last for the second to arrive.
After missing the putting surface with his approach shot to the dangerous final green, McIlroy played an expertly executed chip from the thick greenside rough to within two feet for a simple close-range conversion.
The World Number 39 insisted play-off defeats at the Omega European Masters and UBS Hong Kong Open last year will stand him in good stead this weekend, as he bids to claim a deserved breakthrough victory.
The anticipated triumph will also be a timely one after Colin Montgomerie named McIlroy as a potential candidate for Celtic Manor next year, shortly after the Scot had been named Europe’s new Ryder Cup Captain earlier this week.