Kiradech Aphibarnrat’s prospects of winning the inaugural Shenzhen International are much less certain at the end of the third round than they were going into its penultimate hole after he let slip an advantage of five shots to lead by just two.
The Thai looked impregnable before the 17th and on course to follow up his one European Tour triumph, which came at the 2013 Maybank Malaysian Open.
Yet he double-bogeyed the par five and dropped another shot at the last, a par four, to sit 12 under par.
His nearest challenger is halfway leader Peter Uihlein, who heads a threatening chasing pack and whose up and down round of one under suddenly grew in value as his playing partner faltered.
Aphibarnrat’s four under 68 was still impressive, featuring nine birdies which all came in the first 13 holes.
The 25 year old started the day on eight under, one stroke behind Uihlein, and burst out of the blocks, with three straight birdies thanks to some sweet putting.
Either side of two bogey fives, an excellent approach to the sixth led to another gain before he made four consecutive birdies around the turn, some of which were nearly eagles.
Having carded three straight pars to stay on course to equal the tournament’s best round of seven under, Aphibarnrat’s putting let him down at the last two holes.
Aphibarnrat, who led by six shots at one point, said: “I've been striking the ball so well in the first three rounds. It’s a good way to start.
“First, I made three straight birdies to jump up at the top. I was still hitting the ball great on the back. Then I made a big mistake on last two holes, not the way to finish.”
His poor putting at the penultimate pin was compounded by Uihlein birdying the hole for the third time this week.
“I lost the focus on the short putt on 17,” Aphibarnrat admitted. “That is the big turn, the big key for me after Peter made birdie, and we swung three shots on that. That's a big move. But I made a mistake and I lost some concentration.”
Uihlein, also chasing his second European Tour triumph to follow up winning the 2013 Madeira Islands Open, was harsh on his own play.
“I just made too many sloppy bogeys. Four bogeys, a bit rough, five birdies and missed a couple pretty easy ones,” he conceded.
Uihlein is a shot ahead of Pablo Larrazábal, one of two players to shoot seven under in the third round along with Li Hao-tong.
Larrazábal recorded eight birdies, including via a long putt at 16, before bogeying the 17th while Li’s faultless round featured one less gain.
Having played his best round of the season, the Spaniard said: “My game was brilliant today. I missed two shots, the second shot on 17 and the second shot on 18, but I played very solid.
“I made only one long putt. I made a two putt on 11, and then I made I think five birdies from four feet.”
Li, aged 19, played alongside two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson for the first time and said: “He's pretty nice guy, so I very much enjoyed playing with him.
“I hit a lot of greens and made a lot of birdies. I was pretty lucky also.”
Watson, who started the day on level par but went round in two over, praised Li, saying: “He's hitting the ball really well. He's making a lot of putts. The key around a golf course is a lot of putts and he made a lot of putts today.”
Li is in a group of five on seven under, a shot behind Emiliano Grillo, Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Ford and Scott Hend.