Ryan Fox posted a second consecutive 65 to lead the way from an ominous looking chasing pack after the weather delayed second day of the 2021 Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.
After a rare rainy morning at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, just over two hours were lost to dangerous conditions, with many of the later starters having a good bulk of their second nine to complete on the third morning.
But Fox managed to complete his second round in the fading light, carding six birdies and a single bogey on his final hole to sit at ten under.
Scot Stephen Gallacher has claimed two of his four European Tour wins on the Arabian Peninsula and he was also at ten under having completed 12 holes, two shots clear of a group full of winning pedigree in a tie for third.
World Number One Dustin Johnson, two time Rolex Series champion Bernd Wiesberger, four time European Tour winner Andy Sullivan and 2019 Betfred British Masters champion Marcus Kinhult were all at eight under, with Sullivan and Wiesberger in the clubhouse.
Fox already has a win to his name at the 2019 ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth, and is not intimidated by the calibre of players trying to chase him down.
"This is what you play golf for, to be in contention," he said. "It's been a while since I've been in this position and I'll just go out and enjoy it on the weekend and see if I can keep playing how I'm playing. I know if I do, I've got a good chance on Sunday.
"I can just control what I can control. If I go out and play well, try to see the target and make them chase me. I don't know how many of the top 50 in the world are here this week but it's a lot. And there's a reason they're there, they're world class players, and I certainly hope to be there one day.
"If I can play well this week, then it's a step forward in that direction. If not, it's just good experience and a nice finish to my Desert Swing because I don't really know when I'm going to come back out here again."
The tougher conditions late on day one and early on day two meant that Englishman Horsey remained on top as the first wave finished their rounds, with Wiesberger the first man to catch him as he holed a 12 footer on the ninth to go with birdies on the third and seventh.
Gallacher had bogeyed the second but he hit back with gains on the third and fourth to get to nine under, with Fox making it a three way tie with his fourth birdie on the day on the second, adding to gains on the 11th, 14th and 16th.
A birdie on the fourth nudged Fox ahead but Gallacher hit back from 12 feet on the eighth before the Kiwi holed a 25 footer on the same hole, only to give the shot back on the next.
Austrian Wiesberger dropped a shot on the 16th to slip back alongside Sullivan, with the Englishman birdieing three of his last four holes in a second consecutive 66.
Johnson had completed just one hole when the delay came but he showed few signs of distraction upon the resumption, holing a monster putt at the second, making a two putt birdie at the par five fourth and putting his approach to five feet at the seventh.
The American could not quite get the putter going as he made five straight pars but then holed from 30 feet at the 13th and left himself a tap-in at the next, walking off in the dark with four holes to complete.
Swede Kinhult had two holes left having added four birdies to a double bogey on the second and an eagle on the fourth.
Fleetwood finished his round with his only bogey of the day after finding the water, adding to six birdies in a 65, while Hill had three birdies and a bogey in a 68.
Rose was five under for his round with three holes to complete, while Perez had five left having recovered from a double bogey with six birdies, and Horsey had two bogeys in 12 holes.
Viktor Hovland's 66 was not the lowest round of the day but it may have been the most impressive in the tougher morning conditions, and the Norwegian was at six under alongside England's Laurie Canter and Frenchman Antoine Rozner.