Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti was carving out an advantage midway through the afternoon session of the Alstom Open de France second round.
The 30 year old, three times a runner-up but yet to win on The European Tour, turned in a three under par 33 to reach six under at Le Golf National.
That was one ahead of clubhouse leaders Thomas Björn and Richard Sterne, but with just three shots covering the top 20 players Zanotti’s lead was far from secure.
Overnight leader Anders Hansen had teed off still in a share of the lead after his five under par 66 on day one, but played the first 11 holes in four over to drop down the leaderboard.
After fog at Le Golf National outside Paris meant a one-hour delay this morning, Björn had wasted little time in overtaking Hansen with three birdies in his first five holes and was two clear of the field with two holes to play.
However, bogeys at the eighth and ninth meant Björn had to settle for a second round of 69 to finish five under alongside Hansen, whose second round was set to commence shortly.
Björn's playing partner Graeme McDowell was a shot behind after a second consecutive 69, with Scotland's Stephen Gallacher and 2007 winner Graeme Storm also safely in the clubhouse on four under after rounds of 70 and 68 respectively.
Starting from the tenth, Björn had birdied his opening hole and then holed from eight feet on the 13th and just two feet on the par five 14th, where McDowell's ball was already nestled just inches from the cup.
A poor bunker shot on the 18th cost Björn a bogey five, but he hit back with birdies on the third and fifth before another visit to sand on the eighth produced a bogey four and three putts on the par five ninth compounded his frustration.
Sterne, already a winner on home soil this season, birdied three of his last four holes for a 69.
“It was a good finish to the day,” he said. “I started off well and kind of fell asleep halfway. I made a couple of weak bogeys from the fairway, and I had a good finish.
“I hit good shots and I made good putts at the right time. I think I needed to finish strong to give myself a chance going into the weekend.”
McDowell had missed the cut in five of his last six strokeplay events before this week but insisted he would not be pressing the panic button, especially as that stretch included victory in the RBC Heritage and at the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria.
The former US Open Champion carded three birdies and just one bogey in his 69, the dropped shot coming after he found the same bunker as Björn on the eighth.
McDowell was delighted to be in contention, saying: "I'm playing this golf course the way it's supposed to be played - fairways and greens. Once you start hitting it off line it will punish you.
"I just have not got the putter revved up but I am well in touch and right where I need to be. It's been a rough couple of months for me. I've not been playing the kind of golf I'd like to and the key to this week was to come and get myself in the mix for the weekend and get some of the juices flowing again.
"I'm excited for the weekend and to make a cut really. It feels like a step in the right direction.
"I certainly know what to do when I put myself in these positions. I just have not had the opportunity to do it lately. I'm probably on one of my worst missed cut runs in a while. It's nice to break that, first and foremost, and be on the leaderboard."