Alan Dunbar produced a gutsy back nine fightback to keep Italy’s Andrea Pavan in his sights in the Open Blue Green Côtes d’Armor Bretagne - but only just.
The Italian (68) leads by six strokes from the Portrush native (70) on 13 under par in Brittany.
Playing alongside Pavan in the final group, the Rathmore man went out in four over par 39 after two bogeys and a double bogey at the ninth.
But four birdies coming in - at the 11th, 14th 16th and 17th - ensured that he is the Italian’s nearest competitor heading into the final round and in with a chance of a big cheque that could edge him closer to making the Top 45 in the Rankings who qualify for the season-ending Grand Final in Dubai.
Pavan moved serenely to the turn on Saturday afternoon, needing just 31 strokes for the first nine holes thanks to birdies at the third and fifth holes, before an eagle at the par five eighth saw him extend his advantage further.
A birdie three at the driveable tenth hole followed to see him move ten strokes clear at that point, but it was followed by a costly triple bogey seven at the 12th thanks to a second shot that found the gorse bushes over the green.
Six pars followed to close out the round, and as a result he is ideally placed at the summit, and perfectly positioned to add to the Bad Griesbach Challenge Tour by Hartl Resort title that he picked up in July.
“It was a bit windier today, especially on the front nine,” explained Pavan. “I started off well though, with the pins tucked away and tough to get to, even with a wedge. I managed to make a couple of good putts early, and then eagled the eighth after two lovely shots to 15 feet.
“I putted well all day actually, which was important, especially on the back nine. I hit it well until 11 when I pulled my driver from the tee as I thought the wind was stronger off the left, and ended up in an unplayable lie. So I made par there, which felt like a bogey, and then on the next I hit it in the fairway so it was tough to walk off with a seven.
“There was a back pin there on 12, and I didn’t realise how narrow it was behind the flag, and I over clubbed it into the bushes. From then on I tried to stay calm and hit some good shots, so overall I am very happy as no one made a charge, especially after my triple.
“I said to my caddie that if I shot under par today, with this wind and course set up, it would be a good score, and I have a good lead as a result. On this course if you miss one shot it can really get you though so I need to stay in the moment, but I am playing well and my whole game is good, so I just need to stay patient and do my job tomorrow.”
A shot further back is Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard, alone in third place at six under par after a third round 69, and he is one ahead of Sam Hutsby, who ground out a solid score despite nursing a sore neck.
Gareth Shaw had an eagle, three birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey in third successive 71 to go into the final round tied for 43rd on three over.
The weather delayed second round was completed on Saturday morning but Mark Murphy (70-78) and Peter O’Keeffe (75-74) missed the two over par cut.