A third round 67 gave Alvaro Quiros a one shot lead over Peter Hanson at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Quiros, who on both previous days had shared the lead with Rory McIlroy, carded three birdies in a bogey-free effort which took him to ten under par.
World Number Two McIlroy, however, had to fight back from consecutive bogeys on the front nine to sign for a level par 70, leaving the 22 year old in fifth place and in danger of missing out on the top-two finish he needs to stand a chance of catching Luke Donald in The Race to Dubai.
Ryder Cup star Hanson signed for joint-best-of-the-day 65 to charge firmly into contention, while his score was matched by former US PGA Championship winner Y E Yang, who shares third place with Thailand’s Pariya Junhasavasdikul (67).
“I hit the ball great from the tee and to the green,” said five time European Tour winner Quiros. “But the putting was very, very poor.
“Obviously my length is always an advantage. If I'm able to hit the fairway on the second hole, I have great chances to make a good birdie, an easy birdie, when the others probably are struggling a little bit with the tee shot and then with the second shot.”
McIlroy started in solid fashion but, after missing a birdie chance on the third, found sand at the par three fourth and his par putt from ten feet grazed the edge of the hole.
Worse was to follow as his drive at the fifth ended behind a tree and, after chipping onto the fairway, his third shot missed the green.
However, he managed to get up and down to limit the damage to a bogey and drop to five under par.
McIlroy then steadied the ship with a string of pars before collecting his first birdie of the day at the 13th.
He also drained a mid-range putt for another at the 17th as he fought back to post a 70 and remain in the hunt.
“I just didn't have anything out there,” said the US Open Champion. “Mentally I just wasn't at the races, and struggled to get anything going.
“It was one of those days where nothing much was happening, and it was nice to birdie a couple coming in to keep me in it. I'm only three behind, so if I can get off to a decent start tomorrow, I'm right back in it.”
Ryder Cup teammate Hanson moved into second place after a fine 65 which included one bogey and six birdies.
"It was nice," Hanson said. "To sum it up, it was very good putting.
"I had a bit of a slow start making a bogey on the second but from there it was very solid and there were a couple of good bunker shots that saved some pars through the middle part of the round."
Yang, who also mixed birdies with a solitary bogey, added: "I'm in a good position, better than being ahead in the first or second round.
"One more day to focus, 18 holes to play. I think my chances are fairly good. There was minimal wind today, so that helped a lot, and my irons and my putter were playing as I've always wanted them today."
Yang shares third with Junhasavasdikul on eight under after the Thai youngster overcame a terrible start that saw him bogey the first and double bogey the second with six subsequent birdies.
"I kept telling myself 'Okay, the round is not over, you made it through to the weekend after playing really bad the last couple of months,'" Junhasavasdikul said.
"Just go out there and enjoy it, just one shot at a time and try to make something happen."
England's first round co-leader David Horsey is in the group at five under par following a 69, while defending champion Ian Poulter is six shots off the lead after a 67.