Julien Guerrier shot a three-under-par 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Cazoo Classic at Hillside.
The Frenchman, on 12 under par, would have been in an even better position had he not bogeyed the first and last holes of his third round at the Southport links.
Midway leader Paul Waring was in a three-way tie for second on 11 under with Scotland’s Richie Ramsay and Jens Dantorp of Sweden.
Ten other players were within four shots of Guerrier in a tight leaderboard.
Guerrier overcame his stumble at the first with a run of three successive birdies from the fourth. He picked up further shots at the 13th and 17th but missed his par putt on the final green.
The Wirral’s Waring, who opened his tournament with a course record-equalling 63, had a mixed day. He began with an early birdie but three bogeys either side of the turn saw him fall away. He scrambled back to level par for his round, despite worsening weather, with birdies on the 14th and 17th.
Ramsay made good ground with a five-under-par 67. His six birdies were countered by just one bogey at the seventh.
The 39-year-old is now sensing an opportunity to make amends for his near miss at the British Masters at The Belfry in May, when he surrendered at least a play-off place with a double bogey on the last.
Ramsay said on Sky Sports: “It’s not something that’s easy to get over but, when I look back on it now, I think to myself 99 per cent of what I did that day was was really, really good.
“Maybe one per cent cost me but I put myself in a position. It was just one shot, a fraction of the overall work that you’ve done. I’ve got to take that into consideration and think positively about it.
“I made a promise to my daughter a few years ago that I’d get her a trophy. I like to keep my promises, especially to her.
“To win tomorrow would be brilliant but it’s trying to put that out of my mind and just thinking about just what am I doing on the next shot.”
Another Scot, Grant Forrest, was in a group on 10 under after shooting 71. Sweden’s Alexander Bjork carded the best round of the day, 64, to join him on that mark.
England’s Marcus Armitage and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre were among five players on eight under after rounds of 70 and 66 respectively.
Andy Sullivan moved to seven under after signing for a 65 that included eight birdies.