Mike Lorenzo-Vera overcame illness to shoot the lowest opening round in tournament history and take the 18 hole lead at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai but he had World Number Two Rory McIlroy just a shot behind him at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
The Frenchman fired a closing 80 at last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player as he felt the effects of a lung infection but went 17 shots better on day one of the season finale to get to nine under.
McIlroy had five birdies and three lip outs on the front nine as he looked to be at his brilliant best and he hit an incredible second to three feet for a closing eagle in his lowest round at this event - the eighth Rolex event of the season.
Jon Rahm is one of five players who can be crowned Europe's Number One on Sunday and he led the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex at one point during his six under par 66, as did Tommy Fleetwood, who fired a 67 to sit alongside fellow Englishman Tom Lewis four shots off the lead.
Race to Dubai leader Bernd Wiesberger was two under, a shot clear of fellow contender Matthew Fitzpatrick and three ahead of Open Champion Shane Lowry.
Lorenzo-Vera arrived this week 36th on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex and looking for a good week to surpass his career best finish of 35th in 2017.
His 63 was the lowest round to par of his European Tour career and he revealed that a relaxed approach helped him enter the history books over the Earth Course.
"Honestly I'm not feeling well at all," he said. "I have no energy. I had a big lung infection in South Africa and a big treatment and really feel bad on top of that.
"I felt that if I really relaxed a lot, just swing it like 70 per cent or maybe less, the ball was still flying pretty well. Try to be pretty clever and not too aggressive and then the putter got hot. So that worked."
Lorenzo-Vera eagled the par five second before picking up a shot on the third and while he bogeyed the next, a birdie on the seventh had him in a share of the lead at the turn.
He hit the front on his own after a birdie on the 11th and added another on the 13th before holing a huge left to right putt on the 15th.
An approach to six feet at the 16th and birdie on the 17th meant he led by three and McIlroy was soon in a share of second as he made an incredible start.
After lipping out for birdie at the first, he made a two putt gain on the second and put his approach to three feet for the next.
It could have been four birdies from four when he lipped out again on the fourth but he holed long right to lefters on the fifth and sixth before a two putt birdie on the seventh moved him to five under.
Lorenzo-Vera was not in the mood to be caught, however, and he spun his approach at the last to five feet after laying up to make another birdie and lead by four.
McIlroy dropped a shot at the 12th but back to back birdies on the 15th and 16th had him back in the hunt before he hit that incredible second on the last.
"I started great obviously but then the finish was lovely," he said. "Finished with four threes in a row which always does the job around here. The two shots into the last were right up there with the two best shots I've hit this year, I would say.
"I'm feeling comfortable with my game, I have done for the last while. I felt like today was just more of the same of how I've been feeling."
Rahm was quietly going about his business with birdies on the second, third and 11th before a tee shot to very close range at the 13th triggered a hat-trick of gains that catapulted him up the leaderboard.
His gain at the 15th had put him top of the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex as he sat in solo second, a position also briefly held by Fleetwood.
The 2017 European Number One made a spectacular start as he eagled the first from the fairway and he added gains on the second, seventh, eighth, tenth and 15th, with bogeys on the 12th and 17th.
Lewis eagled the last from seven feet in his 67 to sit a shot clear of Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello and Swede Marcus Kinhult, two ahead of Major Champions Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Danny Willett, Belgian Thomas Detry, China's Li Haotong and Austrian Matthias Schwab.