Richard McEvoy (Getty Images)
England's Richard McEvoy was the first player to attempt to break free from the logjam at the top of the leaderboard when the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship resumed on Friday.
McEvoy carded an opening eight under par 64 at St Andrews, one of the three courses used for the pro-am event, to share the lead with compatriots Oliver Wilson and Tom Lewis, France's Alexandre Kaleka and Chile's Mark Tullo.
The 34 year old had switched to Carnoustie for his second round and after starting from the tenth with three pars, birdied the par three 13th to move into the outright lead on nine under.
All five of the overnight leaders are battling to retain or regain their European Tour playing rights for next season, with former Ryder Cup player Wilson competing mainly on the Challenge Tour and the other four outside the safety zone on The Race to Dubai.
Only the top 110 after the Perth International in three weeks' time will retain their playing priviliges for 2014, with McEvoy currently a lowly 171st and facing a second consecutive visit to The Qualifying School.
"Three years ago I finished well (eighth) in this event to keep my card, but at the moment I'm so far down in the back of my mind I need to win, really," said McEvoy, a member of the victorious Walker Cup team in 2001 that also featured Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Marc Warren and Michael Hoey.
"But if I go out, I need to go out with a bang, so I've got to give it a shot."
McEvoy was briefly two shots clear when he birdied the 14th as well, and although he also birdied the 17th after a bogey on the 16th, the gap was back down to one shot.
England's Tommy Fleetwood, who won his maiden European Tour title in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles last month, had birdied the fourth and fifth at Carnoustie, while David Horsey had picked up shots on the fifth, sixth and eighth on the same course.
Wilson, who finished runner-up nine times on The European Tour between 2006 and 2009, had also moved to nine under after hitting his approach to the first at St Andrews to three feet and converting the birdie putt.
Carnoustie usually plays by far the hardest of the three courses, but with scoring conditions excellent Fleetwood birdied the sixth, seventh and eighth to make it five in a row.
That took the 22 year old into the lead on 12 under par, one shot ahead of Denmark's Søren Kjeldsen, who had covered the front nine at St Andrews in 31.
Former champion Martin Kaymer had also moved into contention, the 2010 winner five under for his first 11 holes at Kingsbarns to improve to eight under.