Anthony Michael set the clubhouse target to move into a share of the lead as scoring once again proved difficult on day two of the Tshwane Open.
The South African had entered the second round a shot behind overnight leader Justin Harding and, while he did move ahead twice, each time he fell back at Pretoria Country Club.
Michael eventually signed for a one under par 69 to join Harding at seven under, with his countryman due out in the afternoon.
Qualifier Theunis Spangenberg was then at five under with four pars in his opening four holes, a shot ahead of American Daniel Im, who signed for a 68.
Michael is playing in just his 22nd European Tour event but finished in a tie for second at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in the 2011 season and was named Rookie of the Year on The Sunshine Tour in 2010.
He birdied the second but gave the shot back on the fourth before making further gains on the fifth and ninth to turn in 33. A bogey on the 11th dropped him back into a share and he missed a good birdie chance on the 13th before draining a brilliant long right-to-lefter on the 15th to get to eight under.
A disappointing bogey on the gettable 17th was to follow, though, and he had to settle for a share of top spot.
Qualifying School graduate Im made birdies on the fourth and fifth but had given both those shots back when he stood on the 15th tee, before another birdie-birdie burst moved him into contention.
Home favourite Dylan Frittelli was a further shot back after four birdies and three bogeys in a 69, alongside Englishman Gary King, who was three under through six holes.
Jaco Van Zyl bogeyed the first to also move to three under with another South African in Merrick Bremner, who was a late starter.
Swede Steven Jeppensen and South African Dean Burmester both signed for 68s to get to two under, alongside Richard Sterne who fired a level par 70.
The round of the day so far belonged to England's Seve Benson, whose 66 contained a single bogey and moved him to one under.