Ernie Els (Getty Images)
Former Open Champions Ernie Els, Paul Lawrie and Tiger Woods were amongst those trying to catch leading pair Brandt Snedeker and Adam Scott as the leaders took to the Royal Lytham & St Annes course for the third round of The Open Championship.
While American Snedeker and Australian Scott remained level par after four holes to stay at ten and nine under respectively, three-time Major winner Els birdied the sixth and seventh to join Zach Johnson in third place on five under.
The Open challenge Woods ignited late on Friday was in danger of fizzling out as the 14-time Major Champion made a poor start to his third round.
Woods's last act in his second round was to hole a bunker shot for a birdie on the 18th to complete a second consecutive round of 67, moving to within four shots of the lead held by Snedeker.
The former World Number One was delighted to be "right in the mix" as he sought a first Major title since 2008, but was furious at dropping two shots in his opening three holes.
His tee shot on the opening hole - Lytham is the only course on the Open rotation to start with a par three - ran through the back of the green, from where he chipped to six feet and missed the par putt.
And a par on the second was followed by a clumsy bogey on the third, where he opted to putt from ten yards short of the green, but charged his first attempt ten feet past the hole and missed the return.
In contrast, Snedeker was proceeding serenely on his way after equalling the 36-hole Open record of 130 thanks to rounds of 66 and 64 in which he had not carded a single bogey or found one of Lytham's 206 dangerous bunkers.
Four regulation pars kept the World Number 29 one clear of Scott, with Denmark's Thorbjørn Olesen five shots behind after bogeying the fourth.
His playing partner Woods was also six off the pace on four under and a share of fifth place in a large group also containing 1999 Champion Lawrie.
Woods almost got back on track by holing another bunker shot, but this time his escape from sand on the par three fifth ran agonisingly past the edge of the hole.
However, just one hole later he had the crowd roaring their approval as he sank a 60 foot putt on the sixth green to get back to five under and just four off the lead courtesy of Snedeker's first bogey of the week.
After more than two days of flawless golf, Snedeker finally dropped a shot on his 41st hole after taking three putts from just short of the green on the fifth.
Els meanwhile had birdied the seventh to join Woods on five under, the South African having finished second at Lytham in 1996 and third in 2001.