Raphael Jacquelin (Getty Images)
The Alstom Open de France was blown wide open as David Howell and Anders Hansen faltered at the start of their final rounds.
Howell and Hansen, six under overnight and one clear of South Africa's George Coetzee, bogeyed the first and second respectively after teeing off on another windy afternoon at Le Golf National near Paris.
Both men then made six at the par five third, leaving Marcel Siem, Ian Poulter, Raphaël Jacquelin and a charging Francesco Molinari at the summit of the leaderboard at five under.
Molinari bounced back from an opening double bogey with seven birdies to roar into contention. With conditions expected to remain difficult throughout the afternoon, the Italian had a wonderful opportunity to set an imposing clubhouse target as he approached the closing stretch.
Poulter had moved into contention following birdies at the first and fourth, while Siem, who found water on the opening hole but still saved par, picked up a shot on the par five third.
Jacquelin, the focus of strong support from the French crowd, soon joined the leading group by birdieing the fifth.
Howell, Hansen and Coetzee, who dropped a shot at the second, were joined by Retief Goosen, three under through his first four holes, and Henrik Stenson at four under.
It was anyone's guess as to who would emerge victorious from a congested field, however, with Justin Rose, David Drysdale, Thongchai Jaidee and Nicolas Colsaerts all just two adrift of the lead.