England's Denis Durnian inched one step closer to winning his second European Seniors Tour title when he carded a four under par 68 to move into a one shot lead heading into the final round of the Charles Church Scottish Seniors Open at The Roxburghe.
Durnian, from Manchester, who won the 2001 Wales Seniors Open, goes into the closing 18 holes on nine under par 135, one shot in front of England's Neil Coles who added a three under par 69 to his opening 67.
Overnight leader, Ireland's Denis O'Sullivan slipped back to third place after posting a 71 but defending champion, America's David Oakley, moved menacingly back into the frame after carding a flawless five under par 67 that left him alone in fourth place on six under par 138.
Durnian began his round with birdies on the par five fifth and seventh holes before dropping his sole shot of the round when he three-putted the 181 yard par three eighth. Thereafter, he carded further birdies on the 11th, 12th and 14th to go into the round one ahead of Coles.
"I played pretty nicely," said Durnian. "I hit 17 greens out of 18 and for the first time in my life did not have a single five on my card. Tomorrow will be fun. There's a long way to go but at least I now have a great chance to win my second title."
Coles, his nearest challenger, has won 15 times to date on the Seniors Tour and will go into the final round in Kelso attempting to extend his own record as the oldest man ever to win on the Seniors Tour.
The Englishman set that record when he won this year's Lawrence Batley Seniors at the age of 67 and 276 days and he would be 67 and 361 days old if he lifted the trophy here.
During the second round, Coles opened with a birdie on the 385 yard first but then dropped shots at both the second and the third before turning things round with a spectacular eagle on the 403 yard par four ninth where he holed a six iron from 155 yards. That seemed to give him the momentum he was lacking earlier in his round and he went on to post further birdies on both the 14th and the 16th where he holed out from 15 feet on both occasions.
"As far as I can remember that's only the third time in my life I have ever holed a shot as long as that," said the delighted Coles, who finished tied fourth at last week's Bovis Lend Lease European Seniors Masters at Woburn. "It certainly gave me a boost and I capped it nicely with a couple of good putts coming home."
O’Sullivan was a disappointed man after posting a lacklustre 71 that left him two shots out of the lead on seven under par 137.
“I just couldn't get going at all,” said the former Irish amateur international from Cork who only turned professional on the eve of his 50th birthday. “I got five birdies but recorded four bogeys as well and that’s just not good enough when you are challenging to win a tournament".
Oakley, the 2001 Scottish Seniors champion, jumped up from a share of 18th place to fourth after a flawless 67 that might have been even better but for a couple of near misses coming home.
“I love this course,” he said. “I feel comfortable on just about every hole out here and I’d like to think I still have an outside chance if I can shoot low in the final round.
That’s the goal. I haven’t won this season and I would like to rectify that before I head home.”
The round of the day came from Oakley’s compatriot, Alan Tapie who carded a flawless six under par 66 that moved him up to fifth place on five under par 139.
The American birdied the fifth to go out in one under par 35 and then stormed home in 31 with further birdies on the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 16th.
"There wasn't too much negative going on out there," said Tapie, whose sole win on the Seniors Tour came at the 1999 Elf Seniors Open in France. "I'm pretty pleased. I putted as well as I have done all season and that made all the difference."
In contrast, Ireland's Eamonn Darcy, making his third appearance on the Seniors Tour, continued to struggle with his putter in his hands. The former Ryder Cup golfer hit all 18 greens in regulation but could do no better than a three under par 69. That left the Irishman in a tie for tenth place alongside America's Jerry Bruner, England's David Creamer, Chile's Guillermo Encina, England's Tommy Horton and Scotland's Russell Weir on two under par 142.
Former Open and US Open champion, Tony Jacklin, carded a level par 72 to go into the final round on two over par 146. However, it turned out to be a bad day for Bernard Galacher, his successor as Ryder Cup captain, who slid down the field after a disappointing five under par 77.