Three bogeys on the back nine left Sergio Garcia holding on to a one stroke lead with four holes of his third round to play at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The Spaniard is seeking his first win since November 2008 and in that time has fallen from second in the world to his current 79th and took time out to try to discover his zest for the game.
He did not drop a single shot in his first two rounds and though he started with a bogey he recovered to claim the lead as halfway leader Rory McIlroy slipped back with four bogeys on his front nine.
However, the lead had narrowed again to one after a Garcia bogey at the 434 yard par four 14th, with former World Number One Tiger Woods just two shots back at seven under.
He shot a best-of-the-day 66 in round two and after an uncertain start in windy conditions at the Emirates Golf Club he recovered to be four under through six holes of his back nine, including an eagle three at the tenth.
Denmark's Anders Hansen was alongside McIlroy on eight under, one behind Garcia, thanks to birdies at the tenth and 13th.
Last year’s Challenge Tour Number One Alvaro Velasco shot a 65 to climb into a share of fourth place after making the cut with nothing to spare, but Martin Kaymer's hopes of deposing Lee Westwood as World Number One faded after a four over par 76, leaving the German well down the field.
He needed a top-two finish in Dubai to topple Westwood, who is five under for the tournament after a level par round.