Graeme McDowell got trampled in the stampede on moving day as a level par 71 left him tied 17th in the $7 million Italian Open at Gardagolf.
Just one stroke off the lead at halfway, the Portrush native (38) could not make anything happen on a low scoring day when England's Lee Slattery shot a nine-under 62 to take a one-stroke lead over Denmark's Thorbjørn Olesen and home favourite Francesco Molinari on 16-under par into the final round.
Paul Dunne shot a 67 to move up to 35th on eight-under with Pádraig Harrington a shot further back in 42nd after a 69.
Slattery made eight birdies, an eagle and a single bogey in his nine-under-par round, which took him one clear of Olesen and Molinari, who carded respective third rounds of 65 and 66 to share second place, with halfway leader Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett a shot further back.
Major champions Kaymer and Willett have both struggled for form of late but kept their chances alive with rounds of 68 and 67 respectively, with English pair Andy Sullivan and Jordan Smith round in 65 to share sixth on 13 under with China's Li Haotong (67) and Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello (68).
Last week's BMW PGA Championship winner Molinari may have seen his incredible run of 85 holes without a bogey come to an end on the sixth hole of his third round.
But he recovered beautifully with five birdies in his last 12 holes, including the 18th, where the huge galleries roared home their man in typically passionate fashion.
Molinari will once again relish the burden of expectation of an entire nation during the final round when he will look to lift his national open title for the third time.
Challenge Tour - Grehan and McGee make moves
Tullamore's Stuart Grehan complained on Friday that he wasn't taking his chances after he posted bogey-free rounds of 69 and 70 to lie 12 shots off the lead in the Swiss Challenge in Lucerne
But while he finished with a double bogey on Saturday, he made amends in the third round, playing his first six holes in six under en route to a seven-under 64 that catapulted him to tied fifth at Golf Sempachersee.
After making two eagles, seven birdies, two bogeys and that frustrating closing double-bogey, he now just eight shots behind Germany's Marcel Schneider on 10-under.
The leader shot a 68 to lead by five shots from Norway's Kristian Krogh Johannessen on 18-under.
Derry's Ruaidhri McGee also had a great third round, shooting a six-under 65 to share 12th on eight-under as Cormac Sharvin slipped to a 72 and level par.
Staysure Tour - Des still shining
Des Smyth might be 65 but he's still a class act and showed it by carding rounds of 69 and 71 to share ninth place heading into Sunday's final round of The Shipco Masters in Denmark
At four-under par, he's six shots behind Peter Baker, who shot a second successive 67 to lead by two strokes on 10-under par from Barry Lane.
Paul McGinley is tied 19th on two-under after rounds of 69 and 73 with Brendan McGovern (68 75) a shot further back.
Philip Walton is eight over after a second rounds 75 at Simon's Golf Club in Kvistgård.
Alps Tour - Another solid finish for Conor
Naas' Conor O'Rourke moved up two places to 14th in the Alps Tour Order of Merit when he finished tied for ninth in the Open St Francois Guadeloupe.
The Kildare man shot rounds of 70, 73 and 69 to finish on one-under par at Golf International de Saint-Francois where England's Marcus Mohr won by three strokes on seven-under.
Kevin LeBlanc was 43rd on 12-over.
ECCO Tour - Yates does well
Naas amateur Jonathan Yates tied for 20th in the Jyske Bank PGA Championship at Silkeborg Ry Golfklub in Denmark.
He sandwiched a 6 between rounds of 74 and 73 to finish on four-under, leaving him eight shots behind winner Jacob Glennemo of Sweden. Scores
Pro Golf Tour - Deaf golfer wins
Rory McNamara tied for 49th behind deaf golfer Allen John in the Raiffeisen Pro Golf Tour St. Pölten 2018 presented by Elation Travel.
He shot rounds of 71, 69 and 74 to finish on one-over par as Germany's John, reinstated in the amateur ranks in 2016, shot rounds of 65, 66 and 67 to win by two shots on 15-under from Poland's Mateusz Gradecki, who picked up the €5,000 winner's cheque.
John, 30, represented Germany at the 2017 Summer Deaflympics and competed in the men's individual golf event, securing a gold medal.