The Englishman won the event in 2018 - the same season he finished a career best 14th on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex - and a third round 68 moved him to ten under and put him in pole position to claim a third European Tour title at The Belfry.
Since that two win season in 2018, Pepperell has finished outside the top 50 on the Race to Dubai twice and has openly admitted he has found his golf difficult at times.
He missed his first two cuts of the season but revealed he was learning about his game over the Canary Islands Swing, which culminated in a best result of the season so far.
And after holing two very long putts in a round containing five birdies and a single bogey, he said he was still working on his swing.
"I've been awful, to be honest, so I don't feel that confident," he said. "I've still got things going on in the swing that I can feel aren't where they once were and can cause me aggro so the game still feels difficult. I can remember the game feeling easier when I was playing better a few years ago but that's where I'm trying to get back to and I'm confident I will.
"I feel good, I feel really calm, I'm quite enjoying generally hitting better shots. I'm having a good time out on the course but I'm very much still in the process.
"I recall 2018 was a lot like that for me and I think that's part of the reason I did have some success.
"Every round was a very process driven round and I know it can sound cliché sometimes but just being in your own mind on every shot, trying to accomplish what you're trying to accomplish, whether it's a shot or a putt, I think that goes a long way and that's going to be the big key for me tomorrow."
Pepperell made a two putt birdie from very long range at the third and followed that with an approach to kick-in distance on the next to move to eight under.
He bogeyed the eighth but put his tee shot to 12 feet on the 12th before holing from 40 feet on the 14th to join the lead, and another birdie from not much closer on the last had him ahead on his own.
Molinari started the day six shots off the lead but he holed from around ten feet at the first and third and then put an approach to six feet at the fifth.
A 30 footer at the sixth maintained his momentum and two more excellent approaches at the eighth and ninth saw him turn in 30 and share the lead.
A short putt at the tenth had him alone in the lead but he dropped a shot at the 12th before making two putt birdies from around 50 feet on the 15th and 17th.
MacIntyre was a picture of consistency as nice approaches to inside ten feet on the fifth, eighth and 16th were coupled with a bogey on the tenth in a 70.
South African Burmester holed from 80 feet on the 17th in a birdie eagle birdie finish as he carded a 65 after starting with a bogey, while Meronk holed two putts of over 50 feet for eagles on the third and 17th as he recorded the same score.
A chip-in at the 16th was the highlight of Migliozzi's 67, while Hill was over par after 14 holes but rattled off a hat-trick of gains to sign for a 70.
English pair Dave Coupland and Andy Sullivan were at eight under alongside South Africa's Justin Harding and Austrian Matthias Schwab, with tournament host Willett among the group three shots off the lead.