EurAsia Cup team-mates Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters share the lead after an enthralling third round at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, where four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy is just a shot off the pace.
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 as Matt Fitzpatrick surged through the field.
The birdies dried up somewhat on the back nine for both players, and eventually it was Fisher who caught Pieters on 17 under par.
McIlroy finally had a first bogey of the week on the 15th, but chipped in for birdie two holes later and a 65 left him well placed to make his return to action a winning one. The Northern Irishman has been out since October to allow a rib injury to fully heal.
Fitzpatrick and defending champion Tommy Fleetwood share fourth on 14 under as members of Thomas Bjørn's victorious European side from last week's contest with Asia fill four of the top five places.
Pieters had been caught by Fleetwood and Andrew Johnston 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, Fitzpatrick turned in a sensational 29 and then birdied two of the next three to close within one.
Fisher also turned in 32 to keep tabs on the leaders, and once a three-putt bogey on the 15th ended Fitzpatrick's chances of a 59, caught Pieters at the top when he converted a 20 footer on the 14th.
Pieters went ahead once more with a gain on the 16th, but could only find a greenside bunker in three on the par five last and was unable to match Fisher's bogey, with Pieters signing for a 67 and Fisher carding a 65.
Fitzpatrick eventually settled for a 63, with Fleetwood round in 67 as the Race to Dubai champion's title defence remained intact.
“It was another good day,” said Fisher. “Obviously great fun getting out with Thomas, third day in a row, a lot of fun, a lot of banter. Just trying to hang on, felt like I played solid.
“Fingers crossed, we'll be paired again tomorrow, because it's been three fun, exciting days with Thomas and Adam on the bag. So we'll go out there tomorrow and hopefully have some more fun.”
Pieters is hoping to rediscover his touch on the greens ahead of the final round.
“I think I played pretty good today,” he said. “I missed a lot of putts today. Made a couple birdies early, which settled me down.
“The back nine, I played very good. But yeah, I couldn't really make a putt. Hit one really close on 16 and 17, 18, pretty disappointing. I didn't hit many good shots there but it's still nice to make a par on the last after the mess I made.”
Asked what his plan was for Sunday, McIlroy added: “Just go out and try and shoot the best score I possibly can. I felt really comfortable, really relaxed out there.”