James Morrison was out on his own in front as the second round of the BMW PGA Championship continued at Wentworth Club.
Morrison, who switched to golf after playing for the England youth cricket team alongside Alastair Cook and Tim Bresnan, added a sparkling 64 to his opening 68.
At 12 under par he was four clear of World Number Two Luke Donald, who won the title at six under last year, and Scot David Drysdale.
But World Number One Rory McIlroy was heading for a second consecutive early exit.
The Northern Irishman was down on four over par and probably needed four birdies in the last eight holes to avoid another missed cut two weeks after failing to make the weekend at the Players Championship in Florida.
Third-ranked Lee Westwood, beaten in a play-off by Donald 12 months ago, was also in danger of heading home, a double bogey on the seventh and bogey at the short tenth dropping him to level par, the expected cut mark.
Morrison, 236th in the Official World Golf Ranking, followed six birdies with a 25 foot eagle putt on the 539 yard last.
His story is a remarkable one. The 27 year old did not start golf until he was 16, but went from 18-handicap to scratch in ten months.
That prompted him to give up cricket, his final game for Surrey Under-17s being an innings of 114 not out.
"I haven't really looked back," he said.
"Playing golf is better than standing in the field all day."
The money is better too. He has already won well over €1,000,000, with his maiden European Tour title coming at the Madeira Islands Open in 2010 - and first prize this weekend is €750,000.
Donald is still in contention for it, however, after his second successive 68.
It was surely all over for McIlroy after he drove not just into the trees, but also into a ditch at the long 12th - the hole where he ran up a six in his opening 74.
He took a penalty drop, chopped out, found a bunker with his fourth and did well to limit the damage to another bogey six.
At seven over he was joint 131st in a field of 150. Only the top 65 and ties go through to the last two rounds and even a birdie at each of the remaining six holes was probably not enough.