Colm Moriarty carded a third round 71 to move into a share of fifth place with one round remaining of the PGA Play-Offs at Saunton Golf Club.
The Athlone golfer is on one under par for the tournament but finds himself six shots behind the leader Matthew Cort.
The Beedles Lake Golf Club professional fired a flawless three under par 68 to finish the day three shots ahead of nearest rival Scotland’s Graham Fox.
Overnight leader Paul Streeter slipped to third a further shot back following a two-over-par 73.
Old Conna’s Neil O'Brian carded a two over par 73 that saw him finish the day in a tie for eighth on level par alongside Damien McGrane.
A one under par 70 from David Higgins moved him into a tie for 15th on four over par.
The top ten finishers are guaranteed a place in next year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth while there are two places up for grabs at the British Masters as well three spots in the Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team.
The event hasn’t been kind to two-time runner up Cort.
He lost in a play-off in 2013 while last year was leading by one going up the last only to see a two shot swing to Gareth Wright.
But the Beedles Lake-attached pro is well-placed to erase those disappointments having carved out a healthy lead going into the final round of the £15,000 event.
Nearest challenger, Scotland’s Graham Fox, who also carded a 68, is three strokes back at four under for the tournament with overnight leader Paul Streeter slipping to third a further shot back following a two-over-par 73.
Cort’s consistency has been reflected by just three bogeys in his opening 54 holes although he twice skirted with dropped shots at 17 and 18 thanks to some heavy-handed putting.
“On 17, I was on the green, about 35 feet away but the pin was cut on the right on a ridge so I’m thinking don’t leave it short, make sure you get it up the slope, and it took off. I de-greened it so it was nice to hole the one coming back,” said Cort.
“I have a good friend who says he wants me to be a bit more attacking on the putts – and that one was!
“On the last, it’s downhill into the wind, and I think my brain was a little bit fried with the pace so again that was a good two putt having left myself eight feet short but overall I played very steady.”
With a top ten finish and a spot in next year’s BMW PGA Championship virtually confirmed, Cort also has his sights on securing a place in the PGA Cup team – the top three automatically qualifying for the 2017 Great Britain & Ireland team which is captained by Saunton’s Albert MacKenzie.
“I’ve played Wentworth the last four years and not done so well. That was the main target – to get into the top ten - now I have got PGA Cup to play for – which is a big deal as I’ve not played it before. I’ve watched the last two, thinking I wouldn’t mind a go.”
Despite his advantage, Cort is unlikely to take anything for granted with the East Course capable of biting at any moment.
“Links bunkers can get you in trouble – on the second I went for one and ended in greenside trap, it was lying pretty bad in the bottom of bunker with a steep face. I didn’t get it out but managed to hit my second bunker close and holed it for a par,” added Cort.
“Those kind of dangers lurk out there and if you start spraying it off the tee you can get into some bother. I’ve just got to go out and play half decent and get it done.”
With successive 68s following an opening 73, Clydeway Golf’s Fox has crept into contention and poses the most immediate threat to Cort and takes a refreshingly straightforward approach to proceedings.
“I just go out and play, hit it and find it, hit it and find it, I’m not really thinking beyond that,” said Fox.
“The golden carrot is dangling for you but I couldn’t care less at the moment, I’ll just go out and play and it will be what it will be.”
Roberts Coles (Maylands Golf & Country Club) is in fourth spot at two under with the trio of Phil Archer (Birchwood), Moriarty and Greig Hutcheon (Paul Lawrie Golf Centre) at one under.
PGA Play-Offs, Saunton GC (Par 71)
206Matthew Cort (Beedles Lake Golf Club) 69 69 68
209 Graham Fox (Clydeway Golf) 73 68 68
210 Paul Streeter (Lincoln Golf Centre) 69 68 73
211 Robert Coles (Maylands Golf & CC) 76 65 70
212 Philip Archer (Birchwood GC) 73 70 69, Colm Moriarty (Drive Golf Performance Ltd) 69 72 71, Greig Hutcheon (Paul Lawrie Golf Centre) 71 69 72
213 Neil O'Briain (Old Conna GC) 70 70 73, Damien McGrane 70 70 73.
214 Ian Campbell (Cheshunt Park Golf Club) 74 69 71, Adam Wootton(Oxford Golf Centre) 75 67 72
217 David Higgins (Waterville Golf Link) 72 75 70