Floris De Vries and Nicolas Meitinger remain locked together at the top of the leaderboard going into the final round of the Mugello Tuscany Open after both carded level par rounds of 71 in Italy.
After matching each other stroke-for-stroke for most of the third round, German Meitinger looked to have edged ahead of the Dutchman when he birdied the 17th hole after De Vries had dropped a shot on the 16th.
However Meitinger lost his ball on the last after pushing his tee shot right into the rough and could only make bogey, while De Vries took advantage of that rare slip by birdieing the 18th to draw level on seven under par 206.
The pair, who had held two stroke overnight lead, are one clear of Sweden’s Joel Sjöholm, who shot a two under par 69 at UNA Poggio dei Medici Golf Club.
All three will battle it out to capture their maiden European Challenge Tour title in the final group on Sunday.
Meitinger, who has won twice on the satellite EDP Tour in 2010, hopes to put the disappointment of his closing bogey behind him and make the step up to Challenge Tour champion.
“It was a bad way to end but I didn’t play very well on the back nine,” said the 26 year old. “I lost focus and I didn’t feel as good as I had in the first two days.
“I’m going to go to the practice range and try to wipe that final hole clean. I led going into the final round on both my EDP Tour victories but there are better guys hunting you on the Challenge Tour. I enjoy being the one being hunted though.”
De Vries had only dropped one shot in 36 holes prior to the third round but found the course tougher on the third day, carding four bogeys as well as four birdies to keep pace with Meitinger.
The 20 year old said: “The pin positions were a lot tougher and I didn’t play as well today. I was a bit wayward off the tee and the wind changed a bit so I’m happy to still be in a share of the lead.
“The greens were a lot firmer so I found it harder to stop the ball but I felt really relaxed on the course. Nicolas played well today so I’m glad to be level with him and hopefully I can sort my game out for tomorrow.”
The leaders’ stalemate allowed Sjöholm to gain ground and the 25 year old, whose nickname is El Toro – Spanish for the Bull – is looking for a final day charge at the title.
He said: “I was nearly not going to play this week because I’ve been really ill but it’s working out well. I played nicely today but the pin positions were a lot tougher.
“It’s always fun to up there with a shot of winning on the Sunday and hopefully I can shoot low tomorrow and no-one can match me.
“It is a battling course but if you hit the ball well you can go low because the greens are so good.”
Spaniard Javi Colomo, Austrian Bernd Weisberger and Ricardo Santos, of Portugal, are a shot further back on five under par
Alessandro Tadini is the leading Italian in a share of seventh place on four under par, along with Scotland’s former Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart, who carded a one over par 72, and Peter Gustafsson of Sweden.