Raphaël Jacquelin will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Sicilian Open after overhauling long-time leader Anthony Wall in the closing stages of day three.
Jacquelin and Wall had threatened to turn the event into a two-horse race when they pulled clear of the chasing pack at the Donnafugata Golf Resort & SPA.
However, both men dropped shots down the stretch to leave the tournament wide open ahead of Sunday’s play, which will begin with 13 players within four shots of the lead.
Veteran Welshman Phillip Price and England’s Jamie Elson are tied for third on six under. Price fired seven birdies and three bogeys in an eventful 67, while Elson birdied the 16th and 17th holes to vault up the leaderboard.
Jacquelin’s bogey at 16 was the only blemish in an otherwise faultless round of 69 for the Frenchman, who claimed his last European Tour victory at the 2007 BMW Asian Open.
He picked up shots at the first and fourth holes en route to a front nine of 33, which overnight leader Wall would have matched were it not for a bogey at the short eighth.
Jacquelin moved level with his rival with another birdie at the 12th and Wall then dropped another shot at 15 before both men bogeyed the following hole.
“I was just trying to concentrate only on my game and I am really pleased with the way that I am hitting the ball at the moment,” said Jacquelin.
“I’m hitting my new driver really well and staying patient on the greens which you have to do here. I just have to try and keep going and stay patient tomorrow and make some good opportunities for birdies. That’s the aim anyway."
The 36-year-old insists he does not feel burdened by extra pressure as he looks to end his winning drought.
“I don’t think about it,” he added. "If I win, I win, if not then it doesn’t really matter. Obviously I want to win and came here to win but we are all here to win and there are a lot of guys playing each week and there can only be one winner.
“If I win it would be cool but if not I will still be really happy to have a good result and to enjoy the way that I am playing because I am having a lot of fun out there.”
Wall rued his failure to capitalise on an encouraging start.
“I played well actually but then kind of hit a brick wall around the turn,” he said. "I just felt that I should have probably been two or three shots better off at that point and I just lost a bit of momentum.
“I felt that I should have been six ahead of the field and then was seeing that other guys were getting closer to me.
“I should have dealt with it better because I have a lot of experience but I didn’t do too well with that mentally. I lost a bit of concentration because I got a bit down on myself.”
Price was pleased with his efforts after battling to shoot 71 and 69 in the opening two rounds.
“I struggled on the first day, I hit the ball really poorly and I was kind of thinking ‘where’s my coach’ but I managed to make a good job of it,” he explained.
“Yesterday was better and (it was) probably even better again today so it’s improved every day.
“I think the course probably suits me. It’s a bit of a windy, fiddly course and my experience gives me some help.”
When asked about a possible victory push on Sunday, Price replied: “If I play like I did today, I’ve got a chance.”
Scotland’s Peter Whiteford and England’s Simon Dyson fired rounds of 66 and 67 respectively to move into the group of nine players at five under.
Richard Green, who started the day alongside Jacquelin on seven under, was also on that score after a disappointing start that saw him double bogey the first and bogey the second.
Ireland’s Peter Lawrie matched Whiteford’s bogey-free 66 and was a shot further back at four under, alongside the likes of Colin Montgomerie and Kenneth Ferrie.
Montgomerie was once again hampered by the flu during his round and said: “Considering I spent 21 hours in bed before going out there today, I played okay! I have to say that I feel rotten and am going back to bed right now. It certainly feels like the flu – I am just achy all over.
“It is disappointing in the sense that this flu has caused me to miss an opportunity today – I felt that I had a chance to make a move and get into contention for the final round. I played okay but you can’t do much when you feel as weak as I do now.”