Rafa Cabrera-Bello birdied the last at Emirates Golf Club to take a one-shot lead into the weekend at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The 2012 champion posted a second consecutive 67 to get to ten under and overturn long-time leaders Ernie Els and Danny Willett, with Trevor Fisher Jnr also breaking into the group at nine under in the afternoon.
Three-time champion Els set the early pace with a bogey-free 67 of his own before Willett carded a brilliant flawless 65 to catapult himself up the leaderboard.
It looked for a long period that they would not be caught, but Fisher Jnr's blemish-free 68 made it a three-way tie at the top before Cabrera-Bello birdied the 15th and rolled in from 12 feet on the last to make top spot his own.
The Spaniard has made an impressive start to his 2016 European Tour campaign, with last week's tie for second at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters following a top 15 finish at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
"My game really is very good at the moment," he said. "I'm confident I'm doing all parts of the game well.
"Today it was just a couple sloppy swings that maybe affected my confidence a little bit, but I know the game is really sharp.
"I'm just enjoying golf at the moment. I worked hard over the break and I'm happy to be here competing again and ready.
Having won here before is a bonus. If it gets to the point of the last few holes on Sunday that I have a chance to win, I know I've done it before, so I can do it again, especially here - Rafa Cabrera-Bello
"I've always loved these greens. I've putted really well here before, especially 2012. So I'm putting well, I putted really well today. I putted really well yesterday, even though I hardly holed anything yesterday, but still putted well. And today, they wanted to drop."
The 31 year old is clearly comfortable playing in the Gulf states and, should he win this week, he could move up to 41st in the Official World Golf Ranking, eclipsing his previous best position of 43rd.
To do that, however, he will have to overcome a formidable leaderboard, with multiple event winners Joost Luiten, Thorbjørn Olesen, Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood all at eight under par.
Henrik Stenson, who won here in 2007, and 2011 winner Alvaro Quiros are a further shot behind alongside Brett Rumford, with defending champion Rory McIlroy six shots off the lead after a birdie-birdie-birdie finish.
Els, McIlroy and Stenson will all be going for a fifth title in the Gulf States, while a win for McIlroy would also see him match the South African's record of three wins at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Olesen, who finished second alongside Cabrera-Bello last week, carded the round of the day as he also finished birdie-birdie-birdie in a 64, with Wood signing for a 68, Luiten a 67, and Sullivan continuing his impressive recovery from double-bogeying his first hole on Thursday with a 66.
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