Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer were locked in an epic duel approaching the closing holes of the Open de France ALSTOM.
As overnight leader Rafa Echenique failed to improve on his 11 under par score, Kaymer and Westwood advanced to 13 under with nine and six holes left respectively.
England’s Westwood - without a European Tour title for almost two years despite 16 top ten finishes in that time - made steady progress through the field with four birdies in an outward 32.
Consecutive gained shots at the 11th and 12th then lifted him into a tie at the top of the leaderboard.
German 24 year old Kaymer started the day one behind Echenique but birdied three out of four holes approaching the turn to move ahead.
Ian Poulter and Peter Hanson had joined Echenique on 11 under and all three still had a good chance coming to the difficult closing straight at Le Golf National.