Ireland's Shane Lowry is just two strokes off the pace entering Sunday's final 36 holes of the prestigious Lytham Trophy.
The Esker Hills international, who led by two strokes overnight thanks to an opening 66, carded a six-over par 76 at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
England's Dale Whitnell fired a 72 to lead by a stroke from fellow Walker Cup squad member Gavin Dear of Scotland (70) on level par 140.
Lowry, who was third last year, is tied for third place on two-over par with English pair Mark Thistleton (68) and Luke Goddard (70).
Victory for Lowry would almost certainly cement his place in the Great Britain and Ireland side for September's Walker Cup matches at Merion, Pennsylvania.
Castle's Dara Lernihan made the cut for the top 40 and ties by a stroke thanks to a fine 71 to that left him sharing 23rd place on 147.
But Rathmore's Alan Dunbar missed out by a stroke on 149 after a 74 as did West of Ireland champion David Corsby (75) from the host club.
Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney and Newlands' Andrew Hogan also failed to make it on 153
While Kearney followed his opening 82 with a 71, Hogan did it the other way around as he added a second round 82 to his first round 71.
Portstewart's Paul Cutler finished a shot futher back on 154 after a second round 75.