James Morrison (Getty Images)
James Morrison and Mark Foster will share the lead heading into the final round of the Alstom Open de France after a hugely eventful third day at Le Golf National.
Morrison immediately surrendered his one-shot overnight advantage when, after finding water off the tee, he recorded a double bogey five at the second.
After turning in 38, the Englishman pulled clear of the field with four birdies on the back nine, only to then make another double bogey on 17 and a bogey at 18.
A one over par round of 72 put him level with fellow countryman Foster on nine under.
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay was a shot further back in third, having finished a round containing seven birdies with back-to-back bogeys, while Martin Kaymer and Thomas Levet both went round in 67 to share fourth on six under.
Morrison admitted he was somewhat surprised by his topsy-turvy scoring today.
“It was not as up and down as it looked really. I played pretty well all day,” he explained.
“The double on the second I thought was a pretty good shot and I was very surprised to see it finish in the water. It’s pretty hard to start that way, especially final group.
“I battled back to get it back and then (it was a) poor finish really, a couple of wrong choices. I could easily have finished par, par and have a three shot lead. That's the way it goes.
“But I'm happy. I'm playing well, I'm putting well and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
Foster, who led after three round of last week’s BMW International Open in Munich before eventually finishing in a tie for third, carded 68 for a third consecutive day.
“(That was) probably the best one of the three. A great round,” he said.
“It was really blowing out there, a lot of crosswinds which seemed to be either into or down, and the course has firmed out a lot so it's tough to get the ball close.”
Looking ahead to the final round, Foster added: “I look forward to it and to be honest, I'll be happy if the conditions are similar to today, but, however it is, I'll just prepare and try and stick to my game plan.
“Two weeks in a row the last group, that's where you want to be.”
An upbeat Ramsay was satisfied with his efforts, despite dropping shots on the final two holes.
He said: “I was a little disappointed with the last couple of holes but to shoot three under par out there on probably the harder part of the day when the greens were firmer, and the wind was a little bit stronger than it has been, it was really pleasing.”
Kaymer, who started the day eight shots adrift of the lead on two under, recorded three birdies before recording a stunning eagle at 14.
The German, who can reclaim the World Number Three ranking with a top eight finish this week, said: “I could even have made another birdie on 18, but I'm very happy with four under par. I think it puts me in a good position for tomorrow.
“If I keep playing the way I did today and I put some pressure on the guys early in my round, anything can happen, but I think it will definitely be a very exciting afternoon.
“It all comes down to the last four holes here and I've won in the past here.”
Levet briefly surged into a tie for second when he recorded his sixth birdie of the day at 16 to move to eight under.
However, the popular Frenchman then drove into water at the notoriously difficult 18th and the resulting double bogey six ensured he dropped back into a tie for fourth alongside Kaymer.
Despite his late setback, Levet remains in contention for a first European Tour victory since 2009, when he triumphed at the Open de España.
Richard Green, second overnight on nine under, saw his hopes severely dented by a disastrous eight on the par four seventh, where he made a six yesterday.
After sending his tee shot left into heavy rough, Green then found further trouble and was forced to take a drop after losing his ball in the bushes. The left-handed Australian eventually made it onto the putting surface with his sixth shot, before two-putting from around 20 feet.
Green struggled to recover thereafter and a round of 76 saw him end the day in a tie for seventh at six under.