Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry shrugged off final hole blunders to move into contention in the $7 million BMW PGA at Wentworth.
McIlroy rattled in seven birdies in a five-under 67 that showed his close to his very best again, finishing the day just two shots behind Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, who carded a seven-under 65 to lead by one from South African duo Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.
It might have been a 66 or better had his eagle chip at the 18th not hit the pin and lipped out or had he not whiffed the resulting three-footer for birdie.
But with the US Open just around the corner, he was still encouraged by his form after a recent barren spell.
"It was good to see," said McIlroy, who is tied for fourth with England's Richard Bland, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Sam Horsfield in his first appearance at the West Course for three years.
"It was good to see the shots that I hit and the drives that I hit.
"I put in play a lot more. Still hit a couple of loose shots out there but I guess you can't expect perfection all the time. You have to take it as it is.
"But I played well. I played a lot better today than I have done the last couple of weeks, so it's a good step in the right direction."
Lowry (31) was challenging for the lead on five-under-par playing the 521-yard 18th when he finished with a frustrating double-bogey seven.
After driving into bushes right, the Offaly man took almost 30 minutes to complete the hole after a long delay trying to work out where to take a penalty drop.
He eventually laid up short of the drain, but came up short in the water with his fourth and did well to curl home a testing nine-footer for a closing seven and a three-under 69.
Playing alongside European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn and vice-captain Graeme McDowell, who shot a one-under 71 to match Paul Dunne, he admitted he was keen to impress them.
"I was and I think I did," he said with a chuckle. "They had me surrounded out there!"
Confident he can contend at a venue where he has had five top-12 finishes in seven starts, he was upbeat despite his late blunder.
He told Meridian Media: "I played great today. I was very unfortunate on the last and made a good double to break 70.
"I was freewheeling lovely and holed some lovely putts today but I will get out in the morning and try and shoot a good score and see what happens. It doesn't take huge numbers [under par] to win this tournament."
Pleased to make seven birdies. he was left to rue his decision to change clubs on the 18th tee, adding: "I have no complaints other than one bad shot.
"Generally I don't like that tee shot but I got on the tee today and saw it straight away. [I thought] I'll just knock a low fade with my driver down there and I was talked out of it.
"It was my own fault and I made a bad swing and hit a bad shot. What can you do?"
Dunne also found water at the last, finishing with a bogey for his 71 as Pádraig Harrington shot a six-over 78 and Darren Clarke withdrew before the start citing a leg injury.
Moynihan KO after shoulder injury
An injury also put paid to Gavin Moynihan's bid to get back to form in the Challenge Tour's D&D Real Czech Challenge.
"Tough having to WD this week," the Mount Juliet touring professional said on Twitter after retiring with shoulder trouble.
"Struggled with my shoulder in pro-am yesterday and just wasn't playable today. Sharp pain on the downswing. Hopefully be back soon."
Jonathan Caldwell, Gary Hurley and Jack Hume are tied 62nd after level par 72s, seven shots behind England’s Nathan Kimsey and Thomas Linard of France, while Michael Hoey and Stuart Grehan shot 73s and Dermot McElroy a 74.