Gavin Moynihan recovered from a slow start to end the day just three shots off the lead in the season-ending NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman.
The Mount Juliet professional was two-over after three holes but came back strongly to card a two-under 70 and share 16th place with 10 others at Al Mouj Golf.
With only the top 15 in the Challenge Tour rankings earning European Tour cards after Saturday's final round, 18th-ranked Moynihan knows he will need to make at least €14,000 to win promotion.
An 11-way tie for 16th is worth just €5,010 but with four players tied for the lead after five-under 67s — Australia’s Nick Cullen, Sweden’s Oscar Lengden, Argentina’s Estanislao Goya and Poland’s Adrian Meronk — and another six just a stroke behind, he's just two shots shy of where he needs to be to pick up the cheque he needs.
Meronk, who narrowly missed out on a maiden European Challenge Tour title at last week’s Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge after losing in a play-off to Jens Dantorp, has now gone 36 holes without a bogey after a blemish-free opening round.
Lengden and Goya, who arrived in Muscat in 20th and 23rd in the Rankings respectively, have both won on the Challenge Tour this year and will be looking to pick up more silverware this week.
Also impressing in Muscat was Aaron Rai, who continued where he left off on his return to Challenge Tour action by carding an opening 68 to sit one back after 18 holes.
The Englishman secured European Tour graduation with three early-season wins on the Road to Oman, and during his first Challenge Tour round since July, he bagged five birdies and a bogey to reach four under par.
The 22-year-old has gone on to flourish on the European Tour since graduating from Challenge Tour ranks, recording two top-ten finishes in Denmark and Valderrama in the 2017 Race to Dubai.
“It was great out there today. I have had two rough weeks on the road so it was really important for me to go out there and play well today.
“It has been a really good year for me – winning the Bridgestone Challenge was huge. That gave me a lot of confidence and I hope that experience will help me out this week.
“It is a great track here and is definitely one of the best courses that we play and I really like it here. You need to play well out there as if you are just a little bit off then this course can hurt you.”
“I played really solid today. Although I dropped one at the last, it was a really good round in what is a really important week for me.
“Although I have played in Majors and WGCs I don’t think that any of that will help you this week. The pressure is huge and there are a lot of really good players – lots of young guys coming through – so it is really tough out there, and I am just trying to play as well as I can.
“I have been really consistent this year, something that I have been throughout most of my career, but I have gone three seasons without a win. I am desperate to return to the winners’ circle and this week would be the perfect time to do it.”
“It is a pretty tough golf course – you have to play really well, especially around the greens. It was a little bit calmer this morning, but when the wind picks up it is really difficult out there.
“Hitting a lot of fairways was the key for me today. Because I was good off of the tee I was able to attack the pins and I also holed a few good putts – so overall I was very solid today.
“Last week was a great one, the best of my career so far, and hopefully this week will be another good one for me.”
NBO Golf Classic Grand Final, Al Mouj Golf (Par 72)
67 E Goya (Arg), A Meronk (Pol), N Cullen (Aus), O Lengden (Swe),
68 T Linard (Fra), A Rai (Eng), O Farr (Wal), J Heath (Eng), M Kinhult (Swe), C Sordet (Fra),
69 O Lindell (Fin), S Fernandez (Esp), B Neil (Sco), R Evans (Eng), P Oriol (Esp),
70 A Saddier (Fra), L Gagli (Ita), E Van Rooyen (RSA), T Murray (Eng), D Huizing (Ned) , M Tullo (Chi), G Forrest (Sco) , C Mivis (Bel) , G Moynihan (Irl), J Dantorp (Swe), S Heisele (Ger),
71 T Pulkkanen (Fin), M Schwab (Aut), R McEvoy (Eng), J Guerrier (Fra), N Von Dellingshausen (Ger), G Porteous (Eng), J Arnoy (Nor),
72 J Sjöholm (Swe), R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra),
73 C Ford (Eng),
75 C Koepka (USA), J Girrbach (Sui), S Brown (Eng),
76 B Hafthorsson (Isl), M Madsen (Den), M Lundberg (Swe),
77 P Howard (Eng), V Perez (Fra),
79 M Ford (Eng)