Irishman Peter Lawrie caught Francesco Molinari as the second round of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open began in Inverness.
Italian Molinari was among the later starters and in a week of low scoring he probably expected to see himself overtaken before he resumed.
And Lawrie was first to draw level with The Ryder Cup star on ten under par after a hattrick of birdies from the 13th - his fourth – and a further gain at the 17th.
Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares bogeyed the first to fall three behind, but Argentine Ricardo Gonzalez, England’s Anthony Wall and former US PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer were all going well to join the swelling group tied for third on seven under.
Phil Mickelson's attempt to fight his way back into the event was given a huge boost when he holed a 60 yard shot on his very first hole.
The three-time Masters Tournament champion was not even in the top 120 after an opening one over par 73 at Castle Stuart Golf Links left him 11 strokes behind Molinari.
Making an eagle two at the 363 yard tenth instantly moved him up 37 places, although he was still outside the predicted halfway cut mark.
The early drama also included a hole-in-one by Scot Peter Whiteford at the 168 yard 11th to take him to five under - but the prize of 168 bottles of champagne was claimed yesterday by England's Andrew Johnston.
Lawrie, with one European Tour win in nearly 300 events, remained out in front with Molinari, but up into third place only one back was 2009 champion Kaymer.
It was some comeback after the German finished last of those who made the cut in the Alstom Open de France last week.
Mickelson had to settle for five successive pars after his initial eagle and at one under he knew he needed to make more progress to be around for the weekend.