Luke Donald showed his experience to take a two stroke lead over Welsh rookie Rhys Davies midway through the third round of the Madrid Masters.
Trying to make amends for losing last week's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club by one after double-bogeying the penultimate hole, Donald was steadiness personified over the outward half.
One ahead at halfway, The Ryder Cup star was caught when Davies birdied the second and briefly overtaken when his playing partner, a winner already in this his first full season on The European Tour, almost chipped in at the long third.
But Donald then matched the birdie there and was back in front when Davies drove into rough on the next and had to chip out.
Both birdied the sixth, but Davies, who turned 25 on Friday, double-bogeyed the short seventh after pushing his tee shot into the rough and three-putting.
To his credit Davies bounced back with birdies on the next two to make five in all on the front nine, but with Donald making a six footer for his third birdie at the long ninth they turned 15 under par and 13 under respectively.
It was by no means a two-horse race. Italian Francesco Molinari and France's Raphaël Jacquelin were a superb five under and seven under for the day after ten and 12 holes respectively and had moved into a tie for third on 12 under.
Davies' fellow countryman Jamie Donaldson, yet to win on The European Tour in 200 starts, birdied the seventh and ninth to stand 11 under with England's Graeme Storm, who recovered from stomach cramps to shoot a course record 64 in the second round.
Ulsterman Graeme McDowell, fourth overnight, was still in the hunt at ten under after an outward 34 and shared seventh with Open de España champion Alvaro Quiros and Englishman Robert Rock.
Donald and Davies took themselves clear of the chasing pack again by making birdies on the long tenth, but Quiros was suddenly only three behind Donald in third place when he followed birdies on the 16th and 17th with a pitch into the hole for an eagle two at the last.
That shot enabled him to match Storm's day-old course record of 64 and ignited his hopes of a second victory on home soil in the same month.