Scotland's Bernard Gallacher moved into contention to win the biggest first prize in European Seniors Tour history when he fired a two under par 67 to grasp a share of the lead heading into the final round of the Wales Seniors Open at Royal St David's in Harlech.
Gallacher, the former Ryder Cup captain, who is still chasing his maiden win on the Seniors circuit, posted a two round aggregate of one under par 137 to go into the final 18 holes tied alongside Northern Ireland's Paul Leonard in the race to land the record £83,320 first prize.
Leonard, from Cookstown, Northern Ireland, added a level par 69 to his opening 68 and is now ideally placed to add to his solitary Seniors Tour victory at the Efteling European Trophy in Holland. However, it was a different story for overnight leader, England's Steve Wild, a member of the host club, who dropped into a share of 10th place after a disappointing 75.
Scotland's Gordon MacDonald, who opened with a 68, one behind Wild, also lost ground after registering a 75 on a day when a total of 16 golfers produced scores in the 60s.
Gallacher got off to the worst possible start when he registered bogeys at all of the opening three holes but he stormed back with a birdie at the 403 yard 6th and an eagle at the 517 yard 8th. He made a further advance when he holed from a greenside bunker for a birdie three at the 430 yard 10th and then set the seal on a fine battling performance with another birdie on the 114 yard 11th.
"I've got to be pleased with my score after such a bad start," said the Scot. " I played well and I got a bit of luck on the 10th just when I needed it.
"It's great to get round in under par because this is a very severe par 69 even in the 12 mile an hour winds we've experienced today."
Leonard goes into the final round as the only competitor to have registered two scores in the 60s. He went out in one under par 35 after a birdie at the 517 yard par-5 8th and then scored two birdies and three bogeys coming home.
"I'm delighted," he said. "I played really solid golf on the front side but played a couple of bad shots on the back nine and that cost me a bit. But it's great to be in this position. I love this course. I like links golf and a little bit of wind and so hopefully can keep things going tomorrow."
The biggest move of the day came from America's Alan Tapie who raced round Royal St David's in a new course record 63 that lifted him into a share of third place alongside Welshman, David Vaughan and England's Denis Durnian who also made a significant advance up the leaderboard with a 65. They finished on two over par 140, one shot in front of Australia's Terry Gale, America's Jay Horton and New Zealand's Simon Owen who is challenging for the third Seniors tournament in-a-row.
Tapie, a former USPGA Tour player from Los Angeles, California, made his first advance of the day when he birdied the 188 yard par-3 4th hole. He dropped a shot at the 6th but then birdied the 481 yard par-5 7th to be out in 35 before registering six more birdies and one bogey coming home.
"That's probably the best round I have ever played on the Seniors Tour," said Tapie, whose best performance this season came when he finished tied for 5th place behind Japan's Seiji Ebihara at the AIB Irish Seniors Open at Powerscourt. "I scored a seven under par 65 at last season's Energis Seniors Masters at the Edinburgh course at Wentworth but this is probably better given the difficulty of the course.
"It was just one of those days," he added. "Recently, my putting has been a little bit shaky but today I tried to stay still and stroke the ball and it seemed to work. Certainly, I holed a lot of good putts which you need to do to score well round here."
Durnian, who began his European Seniors Tour career with a second place in last season's Coca-Cola Kaiser Karl tournament in Germany, registered five birdies and a single boyey in a four under par 65 that was nine shots better than his opening effort.
"If I told you that I played better yesterday you probably wouldn't believe me, but that's the way it was," he said. "Today, however, I putted an awful lot better and that's what made the difference. I also had three 2s out there and that doesn't half help the score along. To be honest, it was entirely unexpected," he added. "I packed my bags this morning so that shows you how confident I was about making the cut."
Further down the leaderboard, Ireland’s Joe McDermott finished his second round in spectacular fashion when he holed in one with a 5-iron on the 202 yard par-3 18th hole. Come nightfall, he discovered that shot helped him to make the cut with nothing to spare.
Unfortunately, it was a different story for local hero, Brian Huggett, who added a one over par 70 to his opening 77 but missed out by a single shot.
Among the other golfers to miss out were Scotland’s Mike Millar (76-71), England’s Peter Townsend (74-73), Spain’s Manuel Ballesteros (72-77) and Australia’s Ross Metherell (74-77).
England’s Neil Coles leads the race for the £500 Hardys Wine Super Seniors prize awarded to the leading competitor in his 60s. Coles, 67, goes into the last round on six over par 144 after rounds of 73 and 71, two shots in front of McDermott and America’s Jay Dolan.
The biggest cheer of the day was reserved for Royal St David’s club pro, John Barnett, who returned a 71 for a two round aggregate of 143. He shares 14th place with 12 other golfers.