Michael Hoey leads in the clubhouse after a superb 65 but Damien McGrane remains the man to catch entering the final day of the Hassan Trophy.
The Kells man lead on 12 under par after 10 holes of the third round and will resume in Agadir this morning with Masters hopeful Matteo Manassero and Spain’s Jose Manuel Lara just one shot behind.
McGrane, 40, started the day three behind clubhouse leader Phillip Price but with 13 holes of his second round remaining after lengthy wind delays on Friday.
On his return to the Golf du Palais Royal course, McGrane birdied the seventh, ninth and tenth to pull level with former Ryder Cup hero Price, before two-putting the long 15th for birdie to take the outright lead.
He holed an important six footer at the last to confirm his halfway advantage, then mixed four birdies with three bogeys over the first ten holes of his third round to reach 12 under par.
That was one ahead of not only teenager Manassero, who has played 15 holes of his third round in six under, but also of Lara, who is two under after 10.
“It was a nice way to finish the day with a birdie but I have to be honest and say that it was a bit of a mixed bag out there today,” said McGrane.
“Plenty of birdies and bogeys so not quite as good as the first two rounds. I have actually missed a few fairways out there in the third round and that is probably the easiest thing to do on this course.
“But I can’t complain too much – I am in the position you want to be going into the final day and hopefully I can get the job done. We’ll come back tomorrow and we will have a winner so hopefully that can be me.”
Manassero, needing a win to climb into the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 50 and earn a place at the Masters Tournament in a fortnight’s time, was a brilliant six under through 14 holes.
The 18 year old, who impressed with a 36th-placed finish at Augusta National as a 16 year old, two-putted the long tenth for birdie, gained another shot with an approach to ten feet at the next then completed his hattrick with a two at the 199 yard 12th after an outward 33.
“It was a very good round for me,” said the Maybank Malaysian Open champion. “I went out there trying to make no mistakes and not to leave any shots out there and it worked out to be a great 15 holes.
“I made a lot of birdies and a lot of good putts and I knew that I needed to do that. I knew that I needed to get to double figures at least by the end of the day to get into contention and that is the way it went.
“The dream is still alive and I have to try my best to make it happen. I am certainly going to try and win the event first and foremost to win the event and then if The Masters happens it would be amazing.
“I have to say that the extra prize of the Masters really helps me as well. It gives me extra motivation and I seem to play better in that kind of situation. I had a few months recently where I couldn’t get into contention but after last week and now this week it feels great to be playing well and having chances to win.”
The 34 year old Lara had carded a 65 to race into contention on Friday, and mixed three birdies with a single bogey over the first ten holes of his third round.
“It was a difficult day and it was tough conditions for the first few holes today but all in all I am still in a great position,” said the two-time European Tour winner.
“I just hit a bad drive in the 11th but overall I am happy to be 11 under and at the top of the leaderboard.
“I am playing well so I am trying to do the same things as I have been all week and hoping that it will be good enough tomorrow. Thankfully one thing is certain tomorrow - we won’t finish in the dark!”
Hoey was eight under for the day playing the last after firing eight birides, an eagle and two bogeys before dropping his third shot of the day at the last to set the target at 10 under.
“Yesterday was the best I’d hit it ever, and today was the same,” Hoey said. “Apart from the one shot on the last - 215 yards, three iron - it was getting a little bit dark and it was a long day, so I wouldn’t be too critical.
“I’ve never been as consistent as I would have liked because my swing is not as consistent as it is now. It’s a lot of progress and the putting is coming on.”
Joking, Hoey added: “Hopefully I can contend. It is nice to be in contention. I’m only in contention twice a year and then… I win.”
Playing in Morocco as part of his prize for winning “Big Break Ireland”, Kerryman Mark Murphy put on another memorable display when he recovered from four straight bogeys at the start of his third round by firing five birdies to post a 71 and share 25th on five under.
Proud of the way he fought back in his first European Tour event as a professional, the Waterville ace told European Tour radio: “I was a little bit nervous in the company I had with Ignacio Garrido and Graeme Storm. I had a blast out there with them but it’s new to me.
“There is no point in saying anything different. But I am very proud of the way I fought back. I didn’t drop another shot after the first four.
“No matter what happens tomorrow I have learnt a whole lot about myself and the game of golf.”
Shrugging off a back injury, Murphy added: “I know I can play with these boys now. Before I had questions about it because I’d never ever had a run. Okay, I might be down the field but I just needed to know that I can play with these guys week in, week out and that’s all I need to know from now on.
“I can’t wait for tomorrow. Who knows, I might get off to a better start than I did this afternoon and you never know what might happen.”
Praised by Storm for his gutsy comeback from that horror star, Murphy explained how he’s changed as a person in recent years and feels better equipped to overcome adversity.
“I’ve learnt to be patient,” he said. “I’ve never had that before and I’m enjoying myself on the golf course. I need to go that all the time. I get down on myself and when I do, that leads to nothing but negatives.
“But from now on in my life I am just trying to stay around positive people and stay positive myself. It is working this year and I’ve had a lot of success.
“Who knows what might happen tomorrow. I’d love to get myself into the top 10. I’d love to play in Italy next week. From what I hear, there are a lot of openings over there.
“If anyone is listening I’d love a sponsor’s invite. I’ll got staight over there and do anything they need.
“I am excited to be back playing and get the blood flowing again. I am taking nothing but positives from everything I have done for the last three days.”
Shane Lowry is tied for 33rd on four under after a 71 that promised a lot more. The Clara man was four under for his round through 10 holes but bogeyed four of the next five before finishing with a birdie at his last hole, the ninth.
Peter Lawrie dropped four shots over his last seven holes to shoot a second round 76 and miss the cut by a stroke on one-over with Gareth Maybin a shot worse despite a 69.