Paul Lawrie showed just why he is a two-time champion at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters as he opened up a one-shot lead at the halfway stage at Doha Golf Club.
No player has ever won the Mother of Pearl Trophy three times, but the Scot was on course to change that after a second round 66 moved him to 11 under, a shot clear of Nicolas Colsaerts.
The 1999 and 2012 champion expertly tackled the wind on his way to an opening 67 but took advantage of the calmer conditions on Thursday morning and shared the low round of the day with Pelle Edberg, Sergio Garcia and Renato Paratore.
The wind got up in the afternoon and it looked as though none of the late starters would be able to get within striking distance of Lawrie, but a closing birdie from Colsaerts lifted him out of the pack at nine under which contained Grégory Bourdy, Rafa Carbrera-Bello and Andrew Johnston.
A win for Lawrie could prove a good omen, as he made the Ryder Cup team in both years he previously won in Qatar, but he does not believe his previous glories, while helpful, will play a big part in getting him over the line.
"It's just nice to go back to places that you know you can play well on and you have done in the past," he said.
"It all helps. You see your name on the board a couple of times, you walk past it every day at the range. It's got to help that you know you've won this tournament twice before.
There's a long way to go, a lot of golf to be played, a lot of top players still up there. But so far, so good - Paul Lawrie
The Scot birdied the tenth, his first, and 12th to get into a share of the lead but dropped a shot on the 15th. He regained it on the driveable 16th and when another birdie followed on the 18th, he held a one-shot lead
The large group behind him refused to let him get away and Bourdy and Branden Grace both shared the lead at one point, with the Frenchman twice pegging Lawrie back after that birdie on the 18th and another gain on the fourth.
But the 47 year old birdied the seventh and, when he put a pin-point approach into the ninth, he moved to 11 under to open up a cushion.
"It was pretty much the same as yesterday," he added. "I played nicely tee-to-green, hit a lot of good shots. I only made one mistake, which was a three-putt from 20 feet at 15.
"They put the tees forward today, obviously thinking that the wind is going to blow pretty hard, and this morning it was dead calm. So I got a little frustrated after 15 because I thought, 'you're not taking advantage of the conditions today'. Then I played some nice golf and made a few birdies.
"But you've just got to do your game plan and kick on, and it's going to change every now and again with the weather.
"My attitude is normally pretty good when it gets blowy because if you get a bit grumpy and a bit grizzly, as I tend to do, when it's windy, you're going to struggle. So I tend to accept things a bit better when it's windy, and that's what you've got to do."
Colsaerts endured a poor 2015 season by his lofty standards, finishing 97th in The Race to Dubai, but the big-hitting Belgian looked back to something like his best as he took advantage of the par fives in a 68.
He birdied all four on Wednesday and made the most of his length again to birdie the tenth and ninth, his last, and made an eagle at the first to add to a birdie on the fifth and a bogey on the 14th.
Bourdy made history when he recorded the first hole-in-one at the eighth hole. The 33 year old had made seven straight pars in the morning but his six iron ace helped him turn in 34.
He gave a shot back on the tenth but quickly regained it on the 11th and further gains on the 14th and 16th helped him sign for a 68.
Johnston, the top player on the Challenge Tour in 2014, made a poor start with a double bogey on the par three third, but birdies on the seventh, tenth, 13th, 14th and 16th moved him back up the leaderboard.
Cabrera-Bello has won in the desert before with his victory at the 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic and stayed well in the hunt with birdies at the second, ninth, 11th and 16th in a 68.
Garcia was the 2014 champion here and, after showing signs of frustration in a 70 on Wednesday, he responded by matching Lawrie with a 66.
The Spaniard birdied the tenth before two further gains on the 14th and 15th were followed by an eagle on the 16th to take him five under for his round through seven holes.
Nine pars followed before a monster putt on the eighth prompted a dancing celebration and moved him to eight under alongside Johan Carlsson, Edberg, Tommy Fleetwood and Thorbjørn Olesen.
The Dane bogeyed the third for the second day in a row but rescued a 69 by coming home in 32 thanks to birdies on the tenth, 11th, 16th and 17th.
Edberg started on the tenth and had a wild first nine with an eagle, four birdies and a bogey. He dropped another shot on the third but regained it on the next and also birdied the seventh.
Fleetwood had two birdies in his last three holes as he registered a 69, while Carlsson also had a big finish with an eagle on the ninth, his last, firing him to a 67.
There was then a group of nine players on seven under, including defending champion Grace.
The South African had shared the lead with birdies at the tenth, 14th, 18th and first added to an eagle at the 16th. A double bogey after seeing his second shot bounce back behind him on the third stalled his progress before he closed with a birdie on the ninth.
Kristoffer Broberg, Jorge Campillo, George Coetzee, Jens Fahrbring, Maximilian Kieffer, Pablo Larrazábal, Joost Luiten and Brett Rumford completed the group four off the lead.