Belfast’s Michael Hoey carded a battling one-over par 72 to keep his hopes of a maiden European Tour victory alive in the weather affected Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington.

The former British Amateur champion, who began the day just a stroke off the lead after opening rounds of 64 and 68, went to the turn in one-under par but looked to have dented his title chances when he racked but three consecutive bogeys from the 10th.

However, the Ulsterman dug deep over the closing holes on the demanding 7,590 yard East Course, sandwiching a bogey at the 17th between birdies at the 16th and 18th to go into the final round just two strokes behind leaders Charl Schwartzel and Andrew McLardy of South Africa and Scot David Drysdale on nine-under par.

World number 68 Schwartzel, a three-time winner on the European Tour, carded a remarkable eight-under par 63 - a round that included 10 birdies and a hole-in-one - to set the clubhouse target at 11-under par.

Either side of a two hour lightning delay, the 24-year-old hit seven birdies in his first ten holes and then bounced back from a double bogey six at the 11th by holing out with a seven-iron at the 205-yard 12th, where his ball pitched less than six inches from the hole and rolled in for an ace.

He then bogeyed the 14th and 16th but birdied the last two holes for a 63 that was good enough for a share of the lead at the end of the day with overnight leader Drysdale (71) and McLardy, who shot a 69.

The race for the title looks likely to end in a cavalry charge with Dane Anders Hansen (64), South Africa’s Retief Goosen (65) and Sweden’s Joakim Haeggman (66) just a shot off the pace on 10 under with another 19 players within four shots of the lead.