Alvaro Quiros moved a step closer to reclaiming his European Tour card as he opened up a five-shot lead on a day of tough scoring at The Rocco Forte Open - Verdura, Sicily.
The Spaniard has six European Tour wins to his name but his exemption for the last of those at the 2011 Dubai World Championship presented by DP World ran out last season, leading to an unsuccessful trip to the Qualifying School.
The World Number 703 - who has been as high as 21st in the Official World Golf Ranking - had committed to focusing on the Challenge Tour in 2017 but a third round 70, on day when only one player broke that mark at Verdura Golf Club, helped put him in prime position for win number seven at 16 under.
South African Zander Lombard emerged as his closest challenger after a 72, with local favourite Renato Paratore and Spain's Pep Angles - who carded a brilliant 68 - at ten under.
After a birdie-fest on days one and two with Quiros going 63-64 to open up a two-shot advantage, high winds created a very different picture on Saturday with just seven players able to break par as the composite layout showed its teeth.
"Today was the worst golfing day for me," he said. "From the tee I was more irregular than normal but I played with the same intentions, trying to fight until the final hole and I've been putting well too.
"Today it was really difficult to putt, the wind was blowing crazy strong and on the greens the perception was always changing with the intensity of this wind. I'm happy with where I am right now.
"Golf is a very difficult game, you never know what's around the corner. I've been very lucky this week. If I'm not mistaken, I haven't had a single unplayable ball and that's a very lucky thing in these windy conditions. If my game stays more or less where it is and I keep putting like I am, I'm going to have chances up until the end."
Quiros had holed four excellent birdie putts in a big finish on Friday and he instantly found his range again, holing an 18-footer on the first to get to 16 under.
Big-hitting Lombard took advantage of the par five second but gave the shot straight back on the third as Quiros endured a rollercoaster of a front nine.
Golf is a very difficult game, you never know what's around the corner. I've been very lucky this week - Alvaro Quiros
The third was proving a very tough challenge for all the players in the wind and Quiros made a bogey after sending his second shot right but a birdie on the next coupled with a Michael Hoey bogey meant he had a four-shot lead.
That did not last long, however, as a missed green and a poor chip on the par three fifth and a poor approach to the sixth led to back-to-back bogeys.
Lombard holed a 15-footer on the seventh to sit just a shot back and a bit of magic on the par five ninth briefly handed him the solo lead as he put his second to eight feet despite playing from the second fairway and holed the eagle putt.
Quiros hit back with a birdie of his own on the same hole and the duo shared the lead at the turn.
The wheels then came off for Lombard as he made a common bogey on the tenth, three-putted the 11th and found a bush on the 12th to make it three in a row.
Quiros then took advantage of the par five to re-establish his four-shot lead but Lombard cut it with a 12-footer on the 14th before Quiros his back in similar fashion.
Sand off the tee led to a Quiros bogey on the 15th but Lombard made a double-bogey on the last after leaving his tee-shot on the beach before Quiros made the up-and-down of the season to stay five ahead.
After putting his tee-shot into a bunker, he flew his second over the back of the green but played his third off the path to five feet for a remarkable par.
Angles turned in 32 on a day when all those around him were going in the other direction and after a double-bogey on the tenth, he made a hat-trick of birdies before dropping shots on the 15th and last.
Paratore carded a 70 with four birdies and three bogeys as he continued his excellent fightback after being three over after four holes on day one.
Northern Irishman Hoey, English pair David Horsey and Lee Slattery, Swede Johan Carlsson, Frenchman Raphaël Jacquelin and Portuguese José-Filipe Lima were then at nine under, with Slattery the only player in that group carding an under par round.