Cameron Young will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic after carding a gutsy 71 on day three at Emirates Golf Club.
The American entered the weekend with a three-shot advantage but found himself one back as he turned in 37, with three-time champion Rory McIlroy setting the target at 12 under after a stunning 63.
The world No 25 found another gear on the back nine, however, carding three birdies to get to 14 under in the first Rolex Series event of the season.
He could have been further ahead, such was the quality of his iron play after the turn, but he will now go out with McIlroy in round four, with Pole Adrian Meronk alongside the Northern Irishman after a 70.
Dane Rasmus Højgaard and China’s Li Haotong were then three shots further back, one ahead of Chilean Joaquin Niemann.
South Africans Hennie du Plessis and Zander Lombard are both on three under (T30), with countryman Louis de Jager a further shot behind.
After a shaky start on day one, Young finished birdie-birdie eagle to share the lead and looked in complete control as he carded a second-round 64.
His front nine woes continued on day three but he is 14 under for the week after the turn and will now go in search of a first DP World Tour win in wire-to-wire fashion after finishing second at the 2022 Open Championship and 2023 WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play.
“It would be a nice feeling [to win],” said Young, who is also yet to record a victory on the PGA Tour.
“It’s one of those times that you feel like kind of at peace with what you’ve done and it’s something I would love to do tomorrow. I’ve put myself in another great place to have a chance and I’m happy with that.
“So if I go out and go through the process that we’ve kind of set up for tomorrow and see what happens.”
He added: “I didn’t putt quite as well as I have the past few days and with a little bit more wind, it wasn’t that easy. I think all in all, it was a good battle.”
McIlroy started the day 10 back but got going with a brilliant shot from the rough to two feet at the 1st and while he missed out at the gettable 2nd, he got up and down for birdie at the par-five 3rd.
A golden patch then followed with his irons as he put a tee-shot to seven feet at the 7th, an approach to similar range at the 8th and a towering eight iron to five feet at the 9th to turn in 30.
The 34-year-old had birdied the par-five 10th and 13th on days one and two and he took advantage again with an up-and-down and a two-putt but better was to come.
He was just off the green in two at the par-five last with a lot of fringe to get through but took out the putter and rolled home a 45-foot left-to-righter for eagle to send the bumper crowds wild.
At that point he was still two behind Young, who had earlier extended his advantage to four shots thanks to a beautiful approach to 11 feet at the 1st.
But as McIlroy was completing his round, Young was finding water at the 7th for a double-bogey that would leave him in a share of top spot.
McIlroy was alone at the top as Young failed to get up and down on the 8th but after a disappointing three-putt par on the 10th, a beautiful tee-shot to 10 feet at the 11th had the overnight leader sharing the summit.
He then put a remarkable second from 256 yards to seven feet at the 13th and while he had to settle for a birdie and missed further good chances at the 14th and 16th, he drove over the back of the par-four 17th and got up and down for another gain.
Meronk made the most of the 2nd and 3rd with smart up-and-downs but gave the shots back at the 5th and 9th before birdieing the 10th with two putts and making a gain from the sand at the 13th.
Li carded a 69, one shot fewer than Højgaard, while Niemann signed for a 67 to sit a shot ahead of English pair Alex Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood and Dane Thorbjørn Olesen.
– Edited report from DP World Tour website
Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images