The DP World Tour Championship looks set for a fitting finale with World Number One Rory McIlroy and World Number Two Luke Donald going head-to-head on Sunday.
England’s Donald extended his bogey free run at Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Earth Course to 100 holes with his 66 – the last time he dropped a shot at this venue coming at the eighth hole in the second round a year ago – as he reached 17 under par.
While that was enough to shake off the remainder of the field, McIlroy was able to keep pace with 66 that started with a bogey at the first but was followed by five birdies and an eagle at the long 14th.
The chasing pack is headed by South African Major Champions Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen on 14 under, with four-time European Tour winner Branden Grace and Dutchman Joost Luiten two shots further back.
But it is the final group on the final day of The European Tour season that will provide the talking point as the two best players on the planet fight for the €1,041,429 winner's cheque with their contrasting styles.
While Donald has pummelled most of the field into submission with his unerring consistency – Jesper Parnevik in 1995 was the last player to win an event without a bogey - McIlroy found on the back nine the sort of inspiration reserved only for the game’s greats.
Everybody else looks too far back given the pedigree of the leaders.
Told of his century of holes without a bogey Donald said: "I'm not sure I can believe that.
"That's pretty good. I guess that's my style - I don't make too many mistakes.
"It's going to be fun - great for the crowd and everyone watching around the world.
"Hopefully we can make some birdies."
Donald played the front nine much the better, a four-birdie 32 compared to McIlroy's 35 which contained an opening bogey after he drove into a bunker, but then birdies at the third and sixth.
It was on the inward half that the 23 year old has really prospered all week, though, and after picking up more shots on the 11th and 12th he found the green in two at the long 14th and holed an eagle putt of around 30 feet.
Donald had needed to sink a ten footer just for birdie there after twice finding the left-hand rough and he added another at the par five last after pitching to six feet before McIlroy, in rough off the tee, matched it with a putt of similar distance.
Scot Marc Warren, joint halfway leader with Donald and McIlroy, managed only a 72 to remain 11 under, his troubles starting when he pulled his drive down the long second into bushes, took a penalty drop and ran up a bogey six.
McIlroy achieved his score despite another rough night with a fever.
"I woke up at four and was not feeling great, but I guess the adrenaline keeps you going when playing," he said.
Told about Donald's run without a bogey he smiled and replied: "He must be due one."
“I think everyone is looking forward to the Number One and Number Two duel tomorrow, and that's the way it's panned out.
“I know I'm excited about it, and I'm sure a lot of people are. It will be a great way to finish the 2012 European Tour season.”