A three-way tie broke out at the summit of a bunched-up ISPS Handa Wales Open leaderboard at The Celtic Manor Resort.
Home favourite Liam Bond, who lives just a couple of miles from the course, looked the epitome of cool during the early stages of his round as he parred the first five holes.
However, the 44-year-old Welshman – who has held a card on The European Tour for just one year, in 2010, during his long career – dropped shots on the sixth and seventh to let his challengers in.
He was subsequently a stroke adrift of England’s Graeme Storm, South Africa’s Tjaart van der Walt and France’s Thomas Levet – all of whom were four under par.
Levet was enjoying the best round of the three, having managed six birdies and two bogeys after beginning his round level.
Storm and van der Walt’s initial bursts were less dramatic, the former complementing seven pars with a gain at five and the latter overcoming a bogey on two by birdying the same hole.
However, they could not breathe easily with a cluster of players alongside Bond on three under and ready to pounce.