Francesco Molinari maintained his slender lead over World Number One Lee Westwood at the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions with a second round 70.
The Italian was not in the same scintillating form as on Thursday, when he posted a seven under 65, but his two under par round was enough to hold on to a one stroke lead at the halfway stage.
The Ryder Cup star holed a 15 footer at the fourth for birdie after an early gain at the second and was three under for the day when he picked up another shot at the seventh.
But he bogeyed the ninth to turn in 34 and saw another shot dropped when his tee shot found the bunker at the par three 12th and he failed to get up and down.
Searching for a first European Tour title in four years, Molinari responded at the par five 14th with an approach to five feet and birdied to complete his scoring and sit nine under par after two rounds.
“I’m quite happy, it was quite a different round from yesterday,” said the 27 year old. “It’s never easy to follow a round like yesterday.
“I maybe didn’t hit the ball as good but I putted well and made a couple of good par saves. Nine under going in to the weekend is a good score.
“I played pretty well the front nine then I started missing some shots around nine, 11, 12. It was getting a bit tougher but I managed to grind and make some up and downs. I got a birdie at 14 which was nice so I’m happy with the round.”
Westwood continued to display the consistent form that has helped him end Tiger Woods’ five-year reign as World Number One.
The Englishman also recorded a two under par 70, holing a six foot birdie putt on the eighth after seven consecutive pars.
He then rescued par from 15 feet on the ninth, but a wild drive down the left on the 11th did cost him a bogey.
But like Molinari, he hit his approach close at the 14th and birdied, before almost chipping in for eagle at the short par four 16th, eventually tapping in for a simple birdie.
“The course played a little bit tougher than yesterday and the flags were a little bit trickier,” said the 37 year old.
“I putted fairly nicely - not as well as yesterday, but all in all I’m pleased with 70.
“Eight under is a decent score and I’ve obviously got a chance going into the weekend.”
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay moved into a share of third with a four under 68 to sit level with South African pair Ernie Els and Jaco Van Zyl on seven under.
Els, seeking a second WGC title of the year, cleared the water with his second shot at the par five 18th, and then rolled a beautiful 40 foot putt to within a foot of the hole for the simplest of birdies and a best-of-the day 65.
South African Open winner Ramsay was delighted with another solid display that left him well placed to challenge for such a prestigious event.
“I played great out there, just steady like yesterday, not doing anything flash,” he said.
“I think I only missed two greens and then hit a couple close, I stiffed one on the sixth hole.
“I do think about The Race to Dubai a bit, I’ve to get into the top 60. Here in China we’ve got a great sponsor in HSBC, a fantastic course, good fans, so you’ve got to be grateful that you’re here and embrace it.”