Rory McIlroy was left to rue late mistakes as Seamus Power roared into contention for the $7.7 million Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.
The West Waterford man (32) needs to finish solo second to guarantee his major championship debut in the US PGA at Bethpage, and he was just six shots behind clubhouse leader Jason Dufner on five-under after a second round 68.
A bogey at his final hole left him tied for sixth with Pat Pérez, defending champion Jason Day and world number two Justin Rose and just a shot adrift of four-time major winner McIlroy, who dropped three shots in his last two holes to turn a potential 66 into a 70.
"It's a funny game," said McIlroy, who double-bogeyed the 345-yard eighth after taking five to get down from 55 yards having hooked his drive into a bunker, then dropped another shot at the ninth
"I stood up here last night talking about that I got the most out of it yesterday and today it was the complete opposite — I turned a 66 into a 70."
McIlroy, who celebrates his 30th birthday today, added: "Golf, it's a funny game and these things happen."
The Holywood star was tied for fourth on six-under with Patrick Reed, just five shots behind former PGA champion Dufner, who shot an eight-under 63 to lead by a shot from Joel Dahmen and Max Homa on 11-under par.
But Power, who will play with Day today, is now hot on the heels of the leaders and after top-six finishes in his last two starts, he’s gunning for a big week that could secure his PGA Tour card.
"It was a very disappointing start to the season but two good weeks in a row and that changes your whole mentality," said Power, who missed 11 of his first 15 cuts before hooking up with Co Down coach Justin Parsons, now head Prifessional st Sea Island, in March.
“All of a sudden things don't seem as hard. You have a little bit of confidence, you have that feel of being in contention the last couple of weeks, and it starts to feel more and more normal.
”You kind of expect to be in contention like I do this week on a golf course, so I hope I can keep it going."
Ranked ninth for scrambling, he birdied the 10th and 15th, saved par from nine feet at the tough 18th to turn in two-under before making a monster, 70-footer for birdie at the first.
He dropped a shot at the second but then birdied the short fourth and par-five seventh to join McIlroy on five-under
He had a chance to birdie the eighth after a perfect drive but failed to get up and down from just short of the green, the before a pushed drive at the ninth ended up costing him a shot.
"It was pretty neat and tidy apart from a couple of loose shots there on eight and nine that were a little disappointing," said Power, who is hotly tipped to tee it up in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch.
European Ryder Cup captain Pádraig Harrington missed the cut after a second successive 75 in what was just his third event this year after breaking a bone in his wrist last December.
On the European Tour, Paul Dunne's rollercoaster season continued when an "upset stomach" forced him to pull out of the Volvo China Open in Shenzen.
The Greystones star (26) was six-over par for the tournament after three holes of his second round when he pulled on a day when Chinese amateur Kuang Yang (14) became the second-youngest player to make the cut in a European Tour event.
"It's been a bit of a rollercoaster," Dunne said of his year so far. "It’s up and down, and I haven’t been able to put any consistency together. But it’s not a million miles away — the odd day it feels like I’ve figured it out."
China's Wu Ashun added a 65 to his opening 66 to lead by two strokes on 13-under from Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen with last week's Trophee Hassan II winner Jorge Campillo a shot further back.
Yang shot 71 to become the second youngest player at 14 years, six months and 12 days to make the cut in a European Tour event since compatriot Guan Tianlang at the 2013 Masters.
It was a tough day for the Irish in the Challenge de España, where joint overnight leader Michael Hoey is tied for 36th on one-under, five shots off the lead after a 76.
Ruaidhri McGee shot 74 to make the weekend on level par cut mark— six adrift of leaders Sebastian Garcia, Martin Simonsen, Marcus Armitage and Rasmus Hojgaard — but late mistakes saw Cormac Sharvin (72) and Robin Dawson (70) miss out by one stroke on one-over.
On the Ladies European Tour, Leona Maguire closed with a 70 at the Emirates Club's Faldo Course to finish tied for fifth on seven under in the Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic, three shots behind Spain's Nuria Iturrios.
The Spanish star, who was joined in the lead by the Cavan star after just seven holes, pulled away on the back nine, carding a 71 to pip Germany's Olivia Cowan by one stroke on 10-under par and clinch back-to-back wins.
Leona picked up €8,529 to move up to 23rd in the LET Order of Merit and third in the Rookie of Year race as twin sister Lisa earned €1,400 for 50th on 11-over after a 76.
“I played some really solid golf, gave myself plenty of chances,” Leona said. “It gives me good momentum heading back to Symetra Tour.
“It was my first time playing night golf with lights and really enjoyed it.”
Stephanie Meadow missed the cut by two shots in the LPGA Mediheal Championship, finishing in five-over after rounds of 75 and 74.
In amateur golf, Massereene's Tiarnan McLarnon shot a level par 70 to lead the Irish contingent in the Lytham Trophy, five shots behind Northamptonshire's Callum Farr.
Galway's Ronan Mullarney shot 71 as Castle's Peter McKeever and Naas' Robert Brazill chiselled out two-over 72s and Royal Dublin's Hugh Foley a 73.
Four of the five Irishmen in the Walker Cup squad were in action but Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty had to settle for a 74, Mallow's James Sugrue and Portmarnock's Conor Purcell a pair of 75s and Kilkenny's Mark Power a 77.
Holywood teenager Tom McKibbin (16), who is bidding for this third win in as many weeks after victories in the McEvoy Trophy and Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, was tied for 62nd with Purcell and Sugrue after a 75.