Thomas Pieters had to turn in a four-under-par 32 to maintain his one shot lead as Matt Fitzpatrick produced a sensational charge during the third round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
Big-hitting Belgian Pieters had powered into a one shot lead with a flawless 65 on Friday, but had to add four front-nine birdies when play resumed at Abu Dhabi Golf Club to remain ahead of the chasing pack.
On 16under par the Ryder Cup star led by one from his EurAsia Cup team-mates Fitzpatrick, who had seven birdies in a sparkling front-nine 29 and then picked up shots at two of the next three holes to make a first sub-60 round in European Tour history a real possibility.
England's Ross Fisher was four under at the turn to sit third on 14 under, one ahead of a group containing four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, Pieters' compatriot Thomas Detry, England's Andrew Johnston, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and France's Alex Levy.
Pieters had been caught by Johnston and defending champion Tommy Fleetwood in the early stages, but retook the lead with a birdie from 20 feet at the second and then fired his approach from a bunker on the third to five feet.
Further gains came from eight feet at the sixth and tap-in range on the long eighth, but despite Pieters' excellent start, when Fitzpatrick converted a six footer on the 12th, the gap was back down to one.