Graeme McDowell continued to lead the way heading into the final nine holes of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, but Gareth Maybin and Damien McGrane were hot on the heels of the US Open champion.
McDowell rolled in a lengthy birdie putt at the ninth to get back to five under for the tournament, having dropped shots at the third and eighth.
That gave him a one-shot lead over Maybin, who bogeyed his first three holes before getting back on track with a birdie at the fifth.
McGrane, meanwhile, was well placed on three under and appeared to be coping well with the windy conditions.
The Irishman picked up a shot at the third hole and chipped in for another birdie at seven to get to four under, before slipping back with a bogey at the ninth.
Miguel Ángel Jiménez was two shots behind McGrane and the only other player under par as scoring proved increasingly difficult.
The experienced José María Olazábal fared better than most, firing birdies at the first, second, 11th and 12th holes on his way to a fine 70, which lifted him into a tie for 14th on four over par.
Meanwhile, England’s Lee Westwood is certain to replace Tiger Woods at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings, with Race to Dubai leader Martin Kaymer unable to challenge the leaders.
Kaymer needs to win or share second place with no more than one other player if he, rather than the absent Westwood, is to succeed Tiger Woods when the American's 281-week reign ends on Monday.
But the German was down the field on six over with four holes remaining.