Brendan McGovern surged into a six-shot lead at the halfway stage of the European Senior Tour Qualifying School Final Stage when he fired a second successive five under 66 at Pestana Golf Resort's Vale da Pinta Golf Course in Portugal.
Bidding to improve on the category nine status he achieved by finishing inside the top 30 on the over 50s circuit last year, the 51-year old had five birdies in an immaculate round to put himself in pole position to win one of just five cards on Thursday evening.
The European Senior Tour changed its rules last year and now only the top 20 money winners rather than the top 30, keep their full playing privileges.
McGovern's 28th place finish in last year's Order of Merit at least guaranteed him a place in this year's Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl.
But his Category 9 status does not guarantee starts for 2017 and so he's back at Q-School bidding to repeat what he did last year.
The Meath man finished inside the top five at the Qualifying School 12 months ago and while he knows he's in a great position, he's determined not to get carried away with 36 holes still to play and only five cards up for grabs.
Sudden-death will be used to break any ties for fifth place and while McGovern has a healthy lead, he knows things can go wrong quickly.
“I’m not looking too much at the score,” McGovern said. “I played solid. I made no mistakes today and got a good score.
“I wasn’t too worried about the bad weather because that would scupper any nine you play. I probably had the advantage of starting in the dry weather on what would be considered as the scoring nine – it’s not always that way.
“But I took advantage and made the turn in four under par. I then played solid on the front nine, my back nine. The good start helped me and I gave myself chances most of the way round.
“It’s still early days; there’s a long way to go and anything can happen on that course.”
Sharing second place are the American pair of Barry Conser and Chris Hunsucker. Like McGovern, Conser also secured a Senior Tour card at last year’s Qualifying School.
“I needed a good round today,” said the American. “I played well yesterday but couldn’t get anything off the ground. It’s a case of putting one foot in front of the other.
“I wanted to post a good round today and take the pressure off a little bit. It was tough with the wind and the rain. It made concentration difficult.
“Anybody shooting under par today will be making a big move. Getting to four under, I knew I’d move up so I’m happy.
“You have to stay patient. It’s a golf course that can provide opportunities or also pose challenging shots. It’s not supposed to be easy, it’s a test and it ought to be hard.”
Compatriot Hunsucker said: “I need to take things one shot at a time and stay focussed on the task at hand. I’m striking the ball and rolling it well, I just need to keep making putts.”
In fourth place is Gary Rusnak on three under par, and one shot further back, in a share of fifth, are Jean Pierre Sallat and David Shacklady.
Ballybunion amateur Peter Sheehan is nine strokes outside the top five places after an up and down third round 75.
Two over after seven, he birdied the ninth, 12th and 14 to be just two over for the tournament but then bogeyed the 15th, ran up a triple bogey eight at the 16th and bogeyed the 17th to share 45th place on seven over par.
Lisburn's Stephen Hamill is tied for 62nd on 11 over after adding a 77 to his opening 76.
Both Sheehan and Hamill must be within eight shots of fifth place (currently two under) if they are to make the cut and contest Thursday's final round.
Scores after round two:
132 Brendan McGovern (Irl) 66 66,
138 B Conser (USA) 71 67, C Hunsucker (USA) 69 69,
139 G Rusnak (USA) 68 71,
140 D Shacklady (Eng) 70 70, J Sallat (Fra) 72 68,
141 P Wilson (Eng) 66 75, M Wharton (Eng) 71 70, J Romero (Esp) 72 69, S McNally (Eng) 72 69,
142 J Cheetham (Eng) 74 68, T Spence (Eng) 71 71, C Dennis (USA) 70 72, J Carter (USA) 71 71, J Hall (Eng) 70 72,
143 P Streeter (Eng) 72 71, Y Nilsson (Swe) 72 71, J Carriles (Esp) 73 70,
144 J Bevan (Eng) 69 75, A Fernandez (Chi) 72 72, S Jensen (am) (Eng) 68 76,
145 J Berendt (Arg) 74 71, M Davis (Eng) 71 74, J Steenkamer (Ned) 70 75, M Molina (Arg) 71 74, C Swart (RSA) 73 72,
146 M Wiggett (Eng) 73 73, A Sherborne (Eng) 75 71, G Wall (Aus) 73 73, D Wettlaufer (Can) 70 76, S Cipa (Eng) 76 70, K Tenmark (Swe) 69 77, N Sweet (Eng) 71 75,
147 G Ryall (Eng) 72 75, G Joyner (Aus) 72 75, W Bladon (Eng) 77 70, K Tarling (Can) 72 75, D Narveson (USA) 72 75, F Grosset-Grange (Fra) 72 75,
148 W Grant (Eng) 74 74, D Westermark (Swe) 73 75, J Kula (Fra) 71 77, M Nichols (Eng) 79 69, B Smith (am) (Eng) 76 72,
149 M Kierstenson (Eng) 74 75, F Mann (Sco) 73 76, M Haddock (am) (Eng) 74 75, Peter Sheehan (am) (Irl) 74 75,
150 M Booth (Eng) 75 75, R Sabarros (Fra) 74 76, B White (Eng) 75 75, M Reynard (Eng) 77 73, J Quiros (Esp) 76 74, M Spooner (Eng) 77 73, P Scarrett (am) (Eng) 71 79,
151 T Giles (Eng) 73 78, J Buendia (Esp) 72 79, S Bennett (Eng) 73 78, T Elliott (Aus) 75 76, T Persson (am) (Swe) 76 75,
152 N Mitchell (Eng) 76 76,
153 P Affleck (Wal) 77 76, S Puzey (USA) 75 78, Stephen Hamill (Nir) 76 77, C Baron (Eng) 76 77,
154 K Hutton (Sco) 77 77,
155 M Pyatt (Eng) 76 79, G Banister (Aus) 76 79, R Scheffer (Ned) 75 80, J Binch (am) (Eng) 76 79,
156 D Shaw (USA) 78 78, M Macara (Wal) 79 77,
157 G Harris (Eng) 80 77,
158 M Gallagher (Eng) 81 77,
** A Franco (Par) 80 RT, R Gonzalez (Arg) WD.