Søren Kjeldsen’s late slip did not prevent him from taking a handy two stroke lead into the final round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation.
The 40 year old was flawless for the majority of a cold, yet bright, day at Royal County Down until he dropped shots on his final two holes.
That ensured the chasing pack remained in touch, led by Maximilian Kieffer after he shot a course record 65 to catapult himself into second place alongside Rafa Cabrera-Bello on five under.
With the weather set to turn sour tomorrow Kjeldsen, who has not won on The European Tour since 2009, had appeared to be making a decisive move when he strung a hat-trick of birdies together from the par four 11th.
The Dane had already picked up three shots on the front nine and as his putter began to run hot – he was only denied an eagle at the par five eighth when rolling a 30 footer just short – his rivals all began to tread water apart from Kieffer.
The German had endured a mixed start to his tournament, as he followed an opening 67 with a 76 yesterday, but was celebrating a new course record this evening as he mixed seven birdies with a single bogey.
It was the best round on a day scores improved dramatically – there were 15 rounds of 60 compared to 14 in total on the first two days – although World Number Nine Rickie Fowler proved that the Newcastle course was hardly playing easy.
Fowler remarkably finished with a pair of eights, he lost his ball off the tee at the 17th as he ran up a quadruple bogey, after he had chipped in to eagle the reachable 16th and give himself hope on the final day.
The American’s forgettable finish almost certainly wiped away those ambitions and put into context Kjeldsen’s own troubles at the end of an otherwise impressive round.
"If you had given me 67 stood on the first tee I would have been very happy.
"I played terrific all day and didn't think I did too much wrong on the last two holes, so I will focus on the first 16," said Kjeldsen.
"Competition is pretty hard out here. It's not easy to win and it's not like I have played poorly for six years, but it's nice to have a chance and it would mean everything to win this event.
“But it's too early to think about that. There are a lot of great players behind me and I need to play well (on Sunday) to have a chance. It's still that open."
Kieffer, chasing his first European Tour title, revealed he benefited from some local knowledge from his friend Stephen Sweeney, who was an assistant professional at Royal County Down for four years.
"He showed us around in the practice round and this is definitely a course where local knowledge helps a lot," Kieffer said.
"I played very well today and holed a lot of putts, but I also had some luck when I hit a bad shot, which you are going to do in these conditions.”
The highlight of Cabrera-Bello’s day arrived on the 16th when the Spaniard drove the green and sunk an eagle putt, although he dropped a shot on the last – which gave up just two birdies all day.
“I missed a short three putt but overall really pleased,” he said.
“It's been really tough out there, lots of wind, pretty cold and playing in control of my game most of the time. I think it's going to put me in a great position for tomorrow.”
A stroke back sits a group of three players including Bernd Wiesberger, Richie Ramsay and Tyrrell Hatton – who had all shared in last night’s six way lead with Kjeldsen, Cabrera-Bello and Chris Wood.
Wiesberger was level with Kjeldsen after 12 holes today only to join the list of players to struggle into the wind over the closing holes, carding bogeys at 14 and 16.
He was nonetheless content to remain in contention and play well to mark his mother’s 57th birthday.
“It will play tough (tomorrow)”, he said.
“It was not ideal to pick up two bogeys there but it was a tough stretch coming in, and I'm just happy with a round under par today.”
Niclas Fasth was next best placed on two under, as the Swede returned a 67, while Lucas Bjerregaard had equalled the old course record of 66 to be one under alongside former World Number One Luke Donald, Jake Roos and Anthony Wall.
An Byoeng-hun, who won at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last week, shot a 67 to be level with the card.