Rory McIlroy lived up to his billing as a major champion in waiting when he climbed to within striking distance of a top 10 finish on his US Open debut.

The syrupy swinging Ulsterman moved swiftly up the final round leaderboard with two birdies in his first 10 holes before play was suspended until 9am on Monday at Bethpage Black.

Bethpage at dusk - the 4thAs leader Ricky Barnes bogeyed the first to fall back into a share of the lead with Lucas Glover on 7-under par and then hooked his tee shot into deep jungle territory at the second before play was called for the day, McIlroy headed home nine shots off the pace on 2-over.

That was just two shots outside the top 10 and enough to give the Holywood starlet a tasty target to shoot for when he resumes on the second tee with a birdseye view of the leaders ahead of him in the fairway.

Setting his sights on picking up four shots in his last eight holes for a 2-under par total, he said: "It's been pretty solid and I got through the first there and have more to go and hopefully pick up a couple more birdies and try and post a pretty good number.

"I've played well but I think I've handled the situation that I've been put in pretty well also for being in for the first time."

Asked his mindset for the final push, McIlroy said: "If I go out tomorrow morning and if I can get four birdies on the last eight holes, post 2‑under par, you never know. But we'll see what happens. I just need to go out there tomorrow and if I play  the way I did for the first 10 holes I'll have a good chance to get into red figures for the tournament."

For Graeme McDowell the dream of a breakthrough major victory is not impossible after he parred his first four holes to lie just seven strokes off the pace on level par in a share of eighth place with Retief Goosen and Soren Hansen.

David Duval (2 holes played) and Ross Fisher (1 hole) both bogeyed the first to slip back to a share of third place with Hunter Mahan (2 holes) and Phil Mickelson (2 holes) on 2-under with Mike Weir alone on 1-under.

As for the elephant in the room, Tiger Woods birdied the seventh to get back to level for the championship when play was suspended for the day.

Just two shots off second place, Barnes and Glover will sleep fitfully tonight.