Richard Sterne (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell and Richard Sterne remained locked together at the top of the Alstom Open de France leaderboard as the final round began at Le Golf National.
The pair began the day one clear of their nearest challenges, but both birdied two of their first six holes to reach seven under and extend their advantage to two.
Scotland’s Marc Warren had taken up the pursuit of the final group, turning in a three under 33 to reach five under.
Dane Søren Kjeldsen and Australian Richard Green were a shot further back, as the likes of Thomas Björn and David Howell ran up early double bogeys to slip off the pace.
Sterne edged in front by the turn with a flawless outward half of 33.
McDowell, seeking his third win of the season, made the perfect start with a birdie from 15 feet at the opening hole, but Sterne responded with a two-putt birdie on the par five third, where McDowell was lucky not to find a water hazard with his drive.
Both players then birdied the fifth, Sterne holing a long putt from short of the green up a steep slope and McDowell following him in from 12 feet, as they pulled away from the chasing pack.
A poor drive then cost McDowell a bogey on the seventh and with it a share of the lead, while the par five ninth produced matching birdies for the final group from a greenside bunker.
McDowell started for home with a birdie from nine feet at the tenth to leave matters all square again at eight under par, with Kjeldsen and England's Simon Dyson three shots behind.
Sterne dropped his first shot of the day on the 12th after driving into heavy rough and coming up short of the green with his approach, and he looked certain to also bogey the 13th as well.
The South African committed the cardinal sin of taking an iron for safety only to push his tee shot into a water hazard, but after taking a penalty drop he hit his third shot to 25 feet and holed for an unlikely par to remain one behind.