With leaders Rikard Karlberg, Maarten Lafeber and Jeppe Huldahl not teeing off until later in the day, Nixon closed the gap with a five under par 65 at Parador de Málaga Golf.
The 21 year old Englishman, who was the only amateur to earn a playing card at November's Qualifying School, mixed seven birdies with two bogeys as he reached six under par for the week - two behind the leading trio, who were yet to start their rounds.
England's David Howell was making an even bigger move - the four-time European Tour winner moving to six under for the day and seven under for the week with five holes remaining.
Howell's run was all the more remarkable given he had a double bogey at the par three sixth, but three consecutive birdies before and two straight after completed a front nine 31.
And the 35 year old picked up three shots in his first four holes after the turn - leaving him needing to pick up five shots over the closing stretch for a first ever European Tour 59.
Howell was up into a tie for fourth with former Open Champion Paul Lawrie, compatriot Jamie Elson and Japan's Tetsuji Hiratsuka.