Lee Westwood fired a five-under-par 67 to charge into the lead after the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
The Englishman, who started the day three behind leaders Rory McIlroy and Thomas Bjorn, moved to 15 under.
He is one shot ahead of Scot Stephen Gallacher, Germany's Marcel Siem and Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello, and two ahead of Northern Ireland's McIlroy.
US Open champion McIlroy struggled in the windy conditions and carded a level-par 72 after a mixed round.
The 22-year-old world number two, the winner of the title three years ago, carded four birdies and four bogeys to finish on 13 under and in a tie for fifth.
"Conditions were a little tougher - the wind was up and that put me off a little bit," said McIlroy, who drove his ball into a lake on the seventh hole.
"The greens got firmer and the pin positions were a little tougher. I'll go to the range and try to iron it out.
"I just had to try to hang in there and stay as close to the lead as I could. To be only two back is a bonus - I feel it could have been worse."
World number three Westwood hit three birdies in his first four holes, then birdied the 13th for a share of the lead with Bjorn.
He made par on the last five holes and went one ahead when the Dane bogeyed the 15th.
"I played nicely again. Very solid," he said. "I got off to a very good start, three under after four, rolled the ball well on the greens and hit a lot of good quality iron shots.
"It was a little bit tougher today, with a tad more breeze up and I guess a few tighter flags.
"But I coped fairly well with that and 67 is probably about the worst it could have been."
The Englishman said he would enter Sunday's final round in confident mood - despite the expected challenge of high winds.
"I know how to play with the lead," he said. "When I get a chance, I'm pretty good at finishing off.
"I've won 37 times. You know, that's not somebody that's not good with a lead. It's a habit. You get used to it. You get used to knowing what to do; when to press, when not to press, when to be patient.
"I'm hitting the ball well. Whatever happens with the weather happens and you just have to contend with it."
Gallacher and Siem carded rounds of 68 and first-round leader Cabrera-Bello followed with a 70.
Bjorn, trying to repeat his 2001 victory, is down in a tie for ninth, but still has only three strokes to make up.
England's Robert Rock, who managed to upstage Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi in January, is still in contention at seven under par after carding a 69.