Veteran Dane Thomas Björn moved into the outright lead on day three of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, but Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy were among a host of players in close contention at the Emirates course.
Björn twice fell behind fellow overnight leader McIlroy this morning, the 40 year old bogeying the fifth after following the Northern Irishman’s birdie at two with one of his own at the par five third.
However, the top two exchanged places at the short seventh. McIlroy - the winner of this event in 2009 - did well to rescue a bogey with a 20-foot putt after pulling his tee shot into the water, while Björn made no mistake from 18 feet to secure a two.
Björn looked certain to double his lead when he fired a stunning approach to the ninth, only to then miss with a putt from around three feet.
However, he soon picked up another shot at the par five 10th, a hole McIlroy bogeyed before bouncing back to 13 under with a long birdie putt at the following hole.
Westwood, meanwhile, surged into second place on 14 under after mixing six birdies with two bogeys in his first 12 holes.
Joel Sjöholm of Sweden was among six players, including Martin Kaymer and Rafael Cabrera-Bello, in a tie for fourth on 12 under, having benefited from five birdies today.
Also in the hunt was American Ben Curtis, the 2003 Open Champion, who eagled the par five 13th to move to four under for the day and 11 under for the tournament.