Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry were eliminated from the WGC Dell Match Play but Rory McIlroy saw another opponent collapse under pressure to earn a winner-takes-all gunfight with Kevin Na in Texas today.
World No 3 McIlroy improved on his day one performance but still had to come back from one down after 12 holes to beat a wobbly Smylie Kaufman 3 and 1 as Na easily beat Thorbjorn Olesen 3 and 2 at Austin Country Club.
As for McDowell and Lowry, they lost 2 up and 3 up leads and halved their matches with Paul Casey and Marcus Fraser respectively and so cannot overtake their group leaders in today's final round robin matches.
“It's a little bit different tomorrow, knowing that I'm playing Kevin,” McIlroy said of his day three match with Na. “You win or you're heading home. There will probably be a little bit more intensity tomorrow but I felt like I've played well for the most part.
“I’ve played Kevin once before in this tournament (2010) and was able to get the better of him. I think he was 4-up through 6 on me and I was able to overcome that deficit.
“I don’t know if he remembers it too well, but at least I can draw on that memory going into tomorrow and see if I can beat him again.”
Na hadn’t forgotten, commenting: “That was disappointing. Tomorrow I really think I have a good chance.”
He added: “I'm definitely the underdog.”
For McDowell and Lowry it was a case of what might have been.
Lowry was three up after eight holes against Australian Fraser but ending up halving the match to leave both men out of the tournament.
McDowell was two up against Casey with four to play but the Englishman holed a 12 footer for a birdie three at the 15th and with McDowell in to just nine feet at the par-three 17th, holed a 15 footer down the hill for another birdie there to level the match.
The last was halved and so both Casey and McDowell are out, leaving Jaidee to hope he at least halves with McDowell and Casey beats Day, who has two wins despite his sore back.
With just half a point from two matches, Lowry cannot make the last 16 either but he can do Martin Kaymer a favour by beating group leader Zach Johnson, who crushed Kaymer 8 and 6 for his second successive win.
After going down to the German on the 18th on Wednesday, Lowry came out with all guns blazing yesterday.
He hit a wedge stone dead at the first, holed a 44-footer at the second and then drained a 10 footer for a third birdie at the eighth to go three up.
But Fraser hit back, winning the 10th with a birdie and the short 11th in par before levelling the match by holing a 40 footer from the fringe for birdie at the 14th.
Lowry then pulled his tee shot into the hazard at the 17th, losing the hole to a par to go one down and effectively exiting the championship, though he did manage to win the last for a halved match.
McIlroy had another rollercoaster match, winning the second but then losing the third and fourth to pars to go one down to Kaufman.
He came back with wins in birdie at the fifth and sixth but lost the 10th to a Kaufman birdie to find himself all square again.
He then fell behind when he hit his tee shot into the lake at 153-yard 11th but Kaufman didn’t finish five of the next six holes.
After finding water off the tee at 13th and 14th and losing both to leave McIlroy one up, the young American lost the 15th to a McIlroy par to go two down and conceded when he hit his tee shot into trouble left of the 17th.
McIlroy struggled to get through the round robin last year but still won the title. This year he's putting very well with the cack-handed method but continuing to sprinkle his generally good play with far too many mistakes.
"I feel like I played coming off the 65 on Sunday, there was a few mistakes in there. I'm really trying to, as I said at the end of last week, not be hard on myself and not get down on myself if I do make a mistake, especially in match play because any sort of negative body language that you show your opponent, he can feed off that and he can get some confidence from that. So I just tried to stay positive the entire week is what I'm going to try to do...
"I'd say my confidence is higher today than it was yesterday. As I said, my play definitely moved up another level today. I hit some better shots and I made some more birdies. I feel good."
Day showed no ill effects from the back injury he suffered on Wednesday, driving the 393-yard first to set up an eagle two en route to a 5 and 3 win over Thongchai Jaidee.
Four other European Tour Members maintained a 100 per cent record in US$9.5million event, the pick of the bunch being Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who holed a monstrous eagle putt on the 15th to secure a 4&3 victory against Kevin Kisner.
South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel have also won both their matches so far, today enjoying respective victories over Bernd Wiseberger (2&1) and Charley Hoffman (3&2), while Andy Sullivan picked up his second point after downing Matt Jones 3&1.
There were wins for Lee Westwood, Jamie Donaldson, Branden Grace, Russell Knox and Byeong Hun An, while World Number One Jordan Spieth continued his perfect record by beating Victor Dubuisson.
The player to finish top of each of the 16 groups will qualify for the round of 16 on Saturday morning, with the quarter-finals in the afternoon followed by the semi-finals and 18-hole final on Sunday.