There was nothing to separate Open Champion Shane Lowry and home hope Matthew Fitzpatrick at the halfway stage of the 2020 BMW PGA Championship after they both followed up their opening 67s with matching rounds of 65 on Friday.
Morning starters Lowry and Fitzpatrick set a testing clubhouse target of 12 under par after taking advantage of favourable early scoring conditions at Wentworth Golf Club and while overnight co-leader Tyrrell Hatton was able to get within one shot of the leading duo as the weather changed in the afternoon, they remained the men to catch heading into the weekend.
Lowry made the most of his last minute decision to tee it up this week, notching seven birdies in a spotless second round, while Fitzpatrick had been on course to break a tournament record before a double bogey on his final hole forced him to settle for a share of the lead.
Sheffield native Fitzpatrick looked certain to beat Paul McGinley’s tournament record for the lowest opening 36 holes after making an eagle and seven birdies before heading to the eighth - his last.
But he clipped some branches with his second shot there and watched on as his ball landed in the water. He would go on to make a double-bogey six after having to go back to the drop zone but still posted his lowest ever round at this course.
Passing rain showers made scoring more difficult for the later starters but World Number 15 Hatton finished his round with three birdies in his final four holes to sign for a 67 and jump to 11 under.
Frenchman Victor Perez and Dane Joachim B. Hansen were two shots further back in a tie for fourth.
Lowry and Fitzpatrick began the day a single shot behind first round leaders Hatton, Justin Harding and Adri Arnaus but wasted little time in moving into a share of the lead on Friday morning.
Starting from the ninth tee, Lowry opened his birdie account on the 12th before making another at the next to move to seven under, while Fitzpatrick joined him at the summit when he picked up shots on the tenth and 12th.
Further birdies on the 15th and 16th took Fitzpatrick to nine under before Lowry made gains at the long 17th and 18th - the second of which was from around 30 feet - to grab a share of the lead once more.
Fitzpatrick could not take advantage of those par fives but made consecutive pars to keep his card clean.
The Englishman then caught fire, notching a birdie from 20 feet on the second before holing his bunker shot for another gain on the tricky third.
Fitzpatrick then chipped in from the back of the green for an eagle on the long fourth to open up a two shot lead over Lowry, who had just made back to back birdies on the fourth and fifth to get to 11 under.
After narrowly missing his long birdie try at the fifth, Fitzpatrick saw his advantage at the top reduced to a single stroke when Lowry followed up a stunning approach shot from the rough at the seventh with a birdie putt from around three feet.
But just as Lowry was completing his round with a par, Fitzpatrick restored his two shot cushion with another birdie from close range on the sixth.
He surrendered two shots on the last but is pleased with where he sits on the leaderboard with two rounds left to play.
"This is my best position I've been here," said Fitzpatrick. "I love the golf course. I've always felt it suited my game.
"I've never really kicked on around here, I don't think, but if I can just keep playing how I've been playing, make some putts as well, there's no reason why I can't finish it off."
After his round, Lowry said: "This morning was a beautiful morning. It was very cold at the start and the ball was going a long way, no wind and it was a lovely morning to play golf.
"Thankfully I took advantage of it and shot a couple of decent scores."
Hatton opened his round with a bogey on the first to fall back to five under but bounced back in style, making birdies at the fourth, eighth and 12th before chipping in from just off the 15th green for another gain.
The two time Rolex Series winner then took advantage of both of the closing par fives, holing close range putts to get to 11 under.
"I've driven the ball pretty well," said Hatton. "I've not missed too many fairways, which I think is quite key out there.
"Even though the rough's not that long, it's so wet, it's just pretty miserable to play out of. It just doesn't go anywhere. I need to keep that going over the weekend and see how we go."
The shot of the day came from 2006 champion David Howell, who made a brilliant hole-in-one on the 14th.
Howell's seven iron tee shot from 184 yards took one bounce before plunging into the hole, but the former Ryder Cup player will not be driving away in the sponsor's car parked behind the tee.
Instead, £71,675.01 - the value of the car - will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Society by BMW on Howell’s behalf.