Michael Hoey and Kevin Phelan battled to two under 70s to trail Adrian Saddier by five shots after the first round of Trophee Hassan II in Morocco.
Hoey, winner of the title in 2012, had four birdies and two bogeys as Phelan continued his run of good form, mixing six birdies with two bogeys and a double bogey six as they ended the day tied for 22nd.
Gareth Maybin missed just one fairway but had 33 putts in a two over 74 to lie a shot outside the cut mark while Damien McGrane and Peter Lawrie struggled to four over 76s.
Frenchman Saddier is making only his second European Tour start of the season after losing his card but after chipping in for eagle on Golf du Palais Royal’s first hole, the 22-year old added five birdies in a flawless seven under par 65 to lead by one from England’s Daniel Gaunt.
South African George Coetzee — one of a number of players in the field needing a big week to qualify for next month’s Masters Tournament — was tied for third with Scotland’s David Drysdale and England’s Chris Wood after a 67
“I’m very happy - I was very grateful to get an invite to play here,” said Saddier, who handed his invite back when his status snuck him into the field on Monday.
Coetzee and Marcel Siem kept their hopes of qualifying for the Masters Tournament very much alive.
Both men have the daunting task of knowing only a victory in Morocco would be enough to book a trip to Augusta National for the first Major Championship of the year.South Africa's Coetzee carded a 67, one shot ahead of Siem.
Siem led from start to finish here in 2013 and looked to have done enough to climb into the Official World Golf Ranking's top 50 and secure his Masters debut.
However, after the results of the Houston Open were taken into consideration a few hours later, the 34 year old discovered he was ranked 51st and had missed out by just 0.03 points.
"It's a big week for me and four under is a good start," Siem said. "I'm really excited about playing the Masters, I've never played it. I finished it off two years ago and still did not get in. It was a little horrible.
"I'm going to keep doing what I did today, try hard not to make any stupid mistakes. I have got the experience and I know the golf course. I will make enough birdies I reckon....just (need to) avoid the mistakes."
Siem and Coetzee were not the only members of the field with Georgia on their minds, with Alexander Levy, Andy Sullivan, Tommy Fleetwood and Ross Fisher all having chances to move into the top 50 before Monday's deadline.
World number 54 Levy needs to finish in a two-way tie for second or better, while Sullivan has to match his runners-up finish from last year or claim his third European Tour title of the season to move up from 61st.
Fleetwood and Fisher both need to win, but the latter got off to a terrible start with two double bogeys in his first three holes and carded a 77 which was matched by defending champion Alejandro Cañizares.
Fleetwood completed a two under 70, Levy went round in level par and Sullivan was two over for the day.
Complete first round scores from the Trophee Hassan II (par 72)
65 A Saddier (Fra),
66 D Gaunt (Eng),
67 C Wood (Eng), D Drysdale (Sco), G Coetzee (RSA),
68 S Kjeldsen (Den), E De La Riva (Esp), M Lampert (Ger), O Wilson (Eng), R Wattel (Fra), M Siem (Ger), R Green (Aus), M Korhonen (Fin), A Wall (Eng),
69 J Olazábal (Esp), T Lewis (Eng), R Bland (Eng), J Van Zyl (RSA), R Cabrera-Bello (Esp), B Evans (Eng), R Santos (Por),
70 P Waring (Eng), J Quesne (Fra), O Farr (Wal), D Howell (Eng), M Lundberg (Swe), P Larrazábal (Esp), K Phelan (Irl), R Jacquelin, (Fra), M Orrin (Eng), F Fritsch (Ger), M Hoey (Nir), T Fleetwood (Eng), D Horsey (Eng), G Stal (Fra),
71 N Fasth (Swe), T Pieters (Bel), A McArthur (Sco), B Ritthammer (Ger), S Hend (Aus), W Ormsby (Aus), M Tullo (Chi), P Edberg (Swe), E Pepperell (Eng), J Campillo (Esp), P Oriol (Esp), A Pavan (Ita), C Paisley (Eng), A Marshall (Eng), A Otaegui (Esp), J Walters (RSA),
72 P Maddy (Eng), B Dredge (Wal), A Tadini (Ita), J Morrison (Eng), M Matsumura (Jpn), S Kapur (Ind), R Karlsson (Swe), J Lagergren, (Swe), M Manassero (Ita), B An (Kor), A Levy (Fra), R Ramsay (Sco), A Johnston (Eng),
73 E Espana (Fra), M Schneider (Ger), D Brooks (Eng), M Carlsson (Swe), K Broberg (Swe), M Crespi (Ita), J Fahrbring (Swe), A Quiros (Esp), N Elvira (Esp), M Kieffer (Ger), S Benson (Eng), M Foster (Eng), P Widegren (Swe),
74 R Paratore (Ita), J Parry (Eng), E Grillo (Arg), R Rock (Eng), A Sullivan (Eng), G Maybin (Nir), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), S Hutsby (Eng), S Jamieson (Sco), O Fisher (Eng), M Keskari (Ger), S Manley Wal), Y El Hassani (Mar), G Storm (Eng), B Virto Astudillo (Esp), J Palmer (Eng),
75 J White (Eng), B Hebert (Fra), L Jensen (Den), J Scrivener (Aus), R McEvoy (Eng), F Serghini (Mar), J Roos (RSA), G Bourdy (Fra), R Finch (Eng), J Lee (am) (Kor),
76 M Baldwin (Eng), C Lloyd (Eng), A Velasco (Esp), J Barnes (Eng), J Garcia Pinto (Esp), R Dinwiddie (Eng), D Lipsky (USA), M Nixon (Eng), D McGrane (Irl), P Lawrie (Irl), R Gonzalez (Arg), C Del Moral (Esp),
77 D Woltman (USA), J Edfors (Swe), L Slattery (Eng), A Cañizares (Esp), M Ford (Eng), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), T Murray (Eng), A Hortal (Esp), R Fisher (Eng),
78 L Bjerregaard (Den), C Lee (Sco), J Hahn (USA),
79 T Hatton (Eng),
80 C Bouniol (Fra), S Henry (Sco), P Dedek (am) (Cze), A Lguirati (am) (Mar),
81 J Lando Casanova (Fra),
82 R Davies (Wal), R El Kharraz (Mar),
83 T Levet (Fra), A Marjane (Mar),
RTD H Iwata (Jpn).