David Horsey finished strongly for the second day running to extend his overnight lead to four shots during the second round of the M2M Russian Open began in Moscow.
Leading by one overnight after a flawless opening 65 which featured three birdies in the last four holes, the Englishman initially came back to the pack with bogeys at the 12th and 13th after starting his second round at the tenth.
Birdies at the 14th, 17th and 18th steadied the ship as Horsey turned in 35, only for the two-time European Tour winner to drop a shot at the first.
But four gains over the last six holes saw Horsey, whose last victory came in Morocco three years ago, post a 68 and 11 under par halfway total.
That gave him a four shot clubhouse lead over Scotland’s Pete Whiteford, who battled back from a double bogey seven at the 15th which saw him four over for the day through seven holes to complete a 71.
Out on the course, Belgian Thomas Pieters was also seven under with 13 holes remaining after birdies at the second and fourth.
Whiteford’s compatriot Scott Jamieson, with whom he shared second overnight, posted a level par 72 to be six under for the tournament at Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club.
“I got off to a slow start but I managed to bounce back well,” said Horsey. “I tried to do the same as yesterday and stick to my game and not worry about much else.
“Dropping a couple of shots early on is always disappointing, but I knew there’d be plenty of chances to come and I just needed to stay patient and keep giving myself putts for birdie.
“The approach shots are the key here. The fairways are wide so you don’t see guys missing too many fairways. There’s a bit of water, so it’s just about minimising to mistakes and not giving away too many shots when you do make a mistake. Then ultimately it’s about holing putts, the same as every other week.
“I’ve got a while now until the next round, so I’ll be recharging the batteries this afternoon and hopefully I’ll be raring to go tomorrow.”
Whiteford, who came into the event on the back of eight consecutive missed cuts, was pleased with the way he battled back from a difficult start.
“The start was shocking,” he admitted. “The first tee shot was straight in the rubbish, and I was four over after five holes. But it was a good fightback.
“Strangely, I felt like I was swinging it better today, but there are still some absolutely wild ones in there which cost me today. The good shots are really good, but there are some calamities.
“Even that shot to the last there – it was an easy nine iron and I just hooked it into the bunker. It makes it exciting though – I don’t really know where to look once I’ve struck it! I’m not playing great so I’m delighted with the way I’m scoring and I’m in with a chance, which is just what I need.”