A three-and-a-half hour rain delay, coupled with two and a half hours lost to lightning on Friday, meant it was mid-afternoon in Kuala Lumpur before the third round action could begin.
McIlroy parred his first two holes to remain 11 under, while Swede Noren led briefly after a birdie at the first only to bogey the next.
England's Simon Dyson remained third on ten under, but instead of the three shot gap back to fourth which existed at the halfway stage, there were now nine other players within five strokes of the lead.
Chile's Felipe Aguilar made a tremendous start with five consecutive birdies, and Frenchman Gregory Bourdy almost matched him with five gains in his first six holes.
They were both up to nine under as a result, along with Italian teenager Matteo Manassero who birdied two of his first three.
World Number One Martin Kaymer was also lurking ominously on seven under after hitting his tee shot at the par three eighth within six feet for his fourth birdie of the day.
Also tied for seventh on seven under were former US Open Champion Michael Campbell, Australians Brett Rumford and Daniel Gaunt, Scot Stephen Gallacher and big-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts.
Bourdy holed from five feet at the eighth, and at ten under was up into a tie for second when Noren followed a birdie at the third with a double bogey five at the short next.
Manassero, not 18 until Tuesday, joined them with a gain at the fifth, while McIlroy’ four opening pars kept him one in front.