Ernie Els turned in a brilliant 31 to closer the gap on Louis Oosthuizen to a single shot during the third round of the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions at Mission Hills.
South African Oosthuizen had carded a brilliant second round 63 to establish a five shot halfway lead – the same margin he held after two rounds when he cantered to a seven shot victory at the 2010 Open Championship – but Els was showing the kind of form that saw him lift the Claret Jug in July.
Oosthuizen had to wait four holes for his first birdie of the day, and followed it with a three-putt bogey at the fifth before a gain at the long seventh took him back to 17 under par for the tournament.
Open Champion Els, who matched his compatriot’s course record on Friday, birdied the third and fourth, before a magnificent approach to three feet at the seventh set up an eagle.
The 43 year old rolled in a six footer at the ninth to be only one back, while England’s Lee Westwood came charging into third on 13 under.
The World Number Four was producing an imperious display of approach play as he birdied five of his first seven holes to soar up the leaderboard before rolling in an eight footer at the ninth to turn in 30.
Defending champion Martin Kaymer and American trio Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker were tied for fourth on 12 under – and the latter had a chance of making history.
The FedEx Cup winner was an amazing 11 under for the day through 16 holes and needed two closing birdies for The European Tour’s first 59.
After 46 holes without a bogey Els looked certain to drop shots at the 11th when he lost his drive in the undergrowth.
However, he made a remarkable recovery and sunk a 15 foot putt for par; although Oosthuizen birdied the same hole with to go two clear.
Westwood drained a 30 footer for birdie at the 14th – playing partner Ian Poulter sunk his approach from a fairway bunker for eagle at the same hole – while Snedeker birdied the 17th but not the 18th to equal The European Tour record low round of 60.