Shane Lowry was still the man to catch at the halfway stage of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA after following up Wednesday's course record-equaling 62 with a battling 70.
After a rocky start to his second round, three-time European Tour winner Lowry found the form that helped him match Henrik Stenson's 13 year old record on day one, bouncing back from two early bogeys with four birdies to get to 12 under par.
South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Richard Sterne were a single shot behind Lowry in a tie for second after posting second-round 68s.
Early clubhouse leader Lee Westwood was in fourth place on ten under, with Scotland's Scott Jamieson, Dane Søren Kjeldsen and Englishmen Ian Poulter and Tom Lewis another stroke further back.
Meanwhile, two-time defending champion Tommy Fleetwood held his nerve to fire the birdie he needed at the 18th to make the cut.
Lowry began the day with a commanding three-shot advantage after Wednesday's heroics, but his lead had been wiped out by the time he teed off on Thursday afternoon, with early starter Westwood joining him on ten under par courtesy of his second-round 68.
And Lowry fell two shots off the pace early in his round after carding back-to-back bogeys at the second and third.
The Irishman bounced back with birdies at the fifth and seventh to rejoin Westwood at the top of the leaderboard, before coming agonisingly close to making another gain at the ninth.
Lowry continued to create plenty of birdie chances as he made his way down the stretch and he regained the outright lead when he launched his tee-shot at the short 12th to within a couple of feet before rolling in for a birdie.
He then repeated the trick at the par-three 15th, leaving himself three feet before tapping in to get to 12 under.
The 31 year old almost got another birdie at the 16th but his long putt from the back of the green pulled up alongside the hole and stayed out.
Lowry then got up and down for a par at the 17th before narrowly missing his six-foot birdie putt at the last to head into Friday's third round on 12 under.
"I'm really happy with that," said Lowry. "I knew today was going to be a bit of a weird day after shooting such a low score yesterday.
"I just tried to go out and play like I played. To be honest, right from the start, I really feel like I played pretty well today. I think I gave myself a lot of chances.
"Some of the shots early on were pretty horrendous. I battled back and hit some really nice shots out there and hit some in close and made some birdies. I was happy with myself."
Oosthuizen started brightly, making birdies at the short fourth and seventh holes before holing his 12-foot birdie putt at the par-five eighth to join Westwood at the summit on ten under.
But after sending his ball into a bush at the tenth, he had to play his fourth shot from the 11th tee and surrendered a bogey before dropping another shot at the 11th to fall back to eight under.
He did not let that derail his challenge, though, rolling in his 15-foot birdie effort at the 13th and notching another birdie from close range on the 14th green.
After getting a lucky break when his second shot at the 18th landed in the bunker before coming out again, Oosthuizen lifted his approach to within inches of the cup before tapping in for a closing birdie.
Oosthuizen said: "Trying to win any event and going into the weekend really close, it's always exciting."
Afternoon starter Sterne reached the turn in 33 after making three birdies on his front nine before closing his round with another gain at the ninth - his last - to join Oosthuizen on 11 under.