Graeme McDowell slipped back into the pack but Paul Dunne is hoping for a big weekend after a solid 70 in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters left him contending for the second week running.
Seven days ago the Greystones man was just two shots off the lead heading into the last two days in Abu Dhabi but ended up tied for 39th after closing rounds of 73 and 77.
This time he's just one off the lead in Doha and while it's a record-setting leaderboard — nine men are tied for the lead on eight under — and he's keeping his fingers crossed that he can build on his seven-under par platform and contend for his maiden win.
"I felt today I played a lot better than I did yesterday," Dunne said after following a nine-par front nine with a two under homeward run that saw him sandwich bogeys at the 12th and 13th between braces of birdies at the 10th and 11th and the 16th and 18th.
"Yesterday I only hit three fairways and it was just kind of a day where I got the ball around; shot a good score.
"Today I played much better. It was more solid. I hit a lot of good shots, a lot of good drives. Gave myself some chances and then I had a few hiccups kind of halfway through the back nine but finished off nicely.
"I'm pretty pleased. I think the wind will pick up this afternoon and, hopefully, that score will stand me in good stead."
Dunne was correct and McDowell struggled in the afternoon wind, adding a 75 to his opening 66 to fall from third to tied 45th on three under par.
The Wicklow player had taken advantage of relatively calm conditions early in his round before playing well as the breeze freshened.
He said: "We didn't play too windy, really. The wind kind of picked up through seven or eight holes but it was only one or two clubs, max. I think it will pick up a bit more. So just enough to think of it.
"But if you miss the fairway, it makes things a lot tougher because it's hard to control your landing distances when the greens are so firm. But yeah, it will be tricky, but the key is to hit the ball in the fairway because you get loads of flyers from the rough. So if people do that, it's still scorable."
Having let a good chance slip in Abu Dhabi last weekend, Dunne would like to shoot some sub-par numbers this time around.
"Yeah, similar to last week," he said of his position. "Hopefully I can have a better weekend this weekend."
Dunne is chasing a huge leading pack with Ryder Cup player Andy Sullivan part of a European Tour record, nine-way share of the lead.
The Englishman moved up the leaderboard courtesy of a bogey-free second round 68 to join Finland’s Mikko Korhonen (71) on top.
They were then joined by Spanish pair Jorge Campillo (67) and Nacho Elvira (69), Welshman Bradley Dredge (72) and South African Thomas Aiken (68), before Aiken’s compatriot Jaco Van Zyl, playing in the afternoon groups, became the seventh player to share the lead.
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (70) and Korea’s Jeunghun Wang (67), who were grouped together, then made it nine players tied at the top, the first time that has happened at the 36-hole stage of any tournament on the European Tour.
It also equalled the record for the most number of players tied for the lead after any completed round in a European Tour event, set after the opening round of the Wales Open in 2007.
A further seven players are just one shot back on seven par on a packed leaderboard at Doha Golf Club, while World Number Ten Alex Noren (70) and four-time Major Champion Ernie Els (70), the 2005 winner, are a further shot adrift on six under par.
Meanwhile, with the cut falling at two under par - just six shots behind the leaders - Englishman Chris Paisley secured his spot for the weekend with a spectacular finish to his round, birdieing the 16th and 18th holes, with an ace on the par three 17th sandwiched in between thanks to perfect nine iron from 135 yards.
Paisley looked to be on his way home before he covered the back nine in just 30 shots to sign for a round of 67 and a three under par total, with the added bonus of US$150,000 from Qatar Duty Free for the hole-in-one, which was his first on the European Tour.
“I had a frustrating start to the day. I thought the front nine was a nine I could really get going and sort of platform me into the back nine, but it didn't really happen. I thought tee-to-green, I struck it really well, but didn't quite convert the putts. My caddie just told me to be patient on this nine and I was still hitting good shots. Finally, the putts started to drop. All in all, I’m reasonably happy with that. I feel going into the weekend, I just need to improve on the par five scoring.”
“It would be nice if it's windy over the weekend. I like the tougher conditions. I get a little impatient when the golf course is playing easy and everyone is making birdies. You miss a few putts and then you get impatient. Today was a tough day. I'm happy obviously the way I played and the way I scored today.”
“It was quite a tricky day. I didn't maybe play my best all the way around. But you know, two under par for the day, heading into the weekend, anything can happen.”
“I feel a lot more pressure in general, as the highest-ranked player. But I'm trying not to think about it too much. It's in the back of my mind, but there are so many good players here. It's not all about the rankings. You have to keep it up, as well.”
“I was in between a wedge and a nine iron and I decided to go with a little nine iron. I just hit it perfectly and when it landed, I said, go in, and it did. So yeah, I’m just delighted.”
“It’s strange, I went 27 holes this week without making a birdie, and I go three over par, and I’m struggling to make the cut. And then all of a sudden I made a couple of birdies and had a hole-in-one and I was inside the cut mark. I suppose it shows you, never give up. This is my first on The European Tour and I think that's five in total. This is definitely the most memorable.”
Complete round two scores
136 K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 66 70, N Elvira (Esp) 67 69, M Korhonen (Fin) 65 71, T Aiken (RSA) 68 68, A Sullivan (Eng) 68 68, B Dredge (Wal) 64 72, J Campillo (Esp) 69 67, J Wang (Kor) 69 67, J Van Zyl (RSA) 67 69,
137 Paul Dunne (Irl) 67 70, C Hanson (Eng) 68 69, D Im (USA) 68 69, J Smith (Eng) 71 66, S Dyson (Eng) 67 70, L Bjerregaard (Den) 69 68, A Wall (Eng) 68 69,
138 A Noren (Swe) 68 70, R Jacquelin (Fra) 67 71, D Lipsky (USA) 72 66, D Frittelli (RSA) 71 67, F Aguilar (Chi) 70 68, M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 69 69, G Storm (Eng) 68 70, E Els (RSA) 68 70, A Levy (Fra) 69 69, A Björk (Swe) 69 69,
139 J Lagergren (Swe) 67 72, C Wood (Eng) 69 70, N Colsaerts (Bel) 70 69, S Walker (Eng) 68 71, A Knappe (Ger) 67 72,
140 P Hanson (Swe) 70 70, R Langasque (Fra) 70 70, N Bertasio (Ita) 71 69, G Havret (Fra) 69 71, D Lingmerth (Swe) 71 69, R Karlsson (Swe) 70 70, T Bjørn (Den) 68 72, P Larrazábal (Esp) 69 71, J Carlsson (Swe) 71 69, R Cabrera Bello (Esp) 70 70, J Stalter (Fra) 69 71, N Kimsey (Eng) 66 74, O Fisher (Eng) 70 70,
141 C Paisley (Eng) 74 67, S Gros (Fra) 72 69, P Peterson (USA) 71 70, S Hend (Aus) 69 72, J Luiten (Ned) 71 70, T Detry (Bel) 67 74, M Pavon (Fra) 71 70, A Karlsson (Swe) 68 73, Graeme McDowell (Nir) 66 75, R Bland (Eng) 70 71, T Olesen (Den) 70 71, D Burmester (RSA) 70 71,
142 D Perrier (Fra) 72 70, P Edberg (Swe) 70 72, B Hebert (Fra) 70 72, D Brooks (Eng) 68 74, R Karlberg (Swe) 69 73, M Kaymer (Ger) 70 72, D Fichardt (RSA) 72 70, R Fox (Nzl) 72 70, D Drysdale (Sco) 71 71, S Lee (Kor) 69 73, B Wiesberger (Aut) 70 72, R Gonzalez (Arg) 69 73, R Ramsay (Sco) 68 74, M Warren (Sco) 69 73,
143 M Manassero (Ita) 70 73, A Otaegui (Esp) 71 72, P Lawrie (Sco) 70 73, C Shinkwin (Eng) 68 75, P Angles (Esp) 70 73, G Bourdy (Fra) 68 75, T Jaidee (Tha) 69 74, H Porteous (RSA) 73 70, S Brazel (Aus) 74 69, J Quesne (Fra) 71 72,
144 E De La Riva (Esp) 72 72, L Haotong (Chn) 69 75, M Armitage (Eng) 72 72, R Rock (Eng) 72 72, J Scrivener (Aus) 72 72, L Jensen (Den) 72 72, L Slattery (Eng) 73 71,
145 J Walters (RSA) 74 71, J Fahrbring (Swe) 72 73, M Kieffer (Ger) 70 75, M Carlsson (Swe) 73 72, G Coetzee (RSA) 74 71, D Howell (Eng) 71 74, B Ritthammer (Ger) 73 72, K Broberg (Swe) 74 71, F Zanotti (Par) 73 72,
146 M Southgate (Eng) 74 72, G Stal (Fra) 73 73, S Gallacher (Sco) 75 71, J Lima (Por) 75 71, R Wattel (Fra) 71 75, S Tiley (Eng) 71 75, T Fleetwood (Eng) 73 73, R Paratore (Ita) 71 75, T Immelman (RSA) 71 75, D Stewart (Sco) 74 72,
147 R Gouveia (Por) 71 76, E Molinari (Ita) 78 69, S Jamieson (Sco) 72 75,
148 N Fasth (Swe) 73 75, M Ilonen (Fin) 74 74,
149 S Chawrasia (Ind) 70 79, P Waring (Eng) 73 76,
150 Y El Hassani (Mar) 71 79, P Verlaar Junior (am) (Ned) 77 73,
151 W Ormsby (Aus) 76 75,
152 J Olazábal (Esp) 75 77, A Al Kaabi (am) (Qat) 76 76,
154 S Henry (Sco) 79 75, A Quiros (Esp) 76 78,
155 C Lutton (Sco) 74 81, N Holman (Aus) 77 78,
158 P Dedek (Cze) 82 76,
170 A Al Shahrani (am) (Qat) 84 86,
** A Cañizares (Esp) 71 WD, M Siem (Ger) 71 DQ