Ernie Els will head into the final round of the Senior Open at Gleneagles three shots behind co-leaders Paul Broadhurst and Darren Clarke.
Clarke entered day three with a two-shot advantage and had extended that to three just after the turn as those around him looked to be faltering.
But as the rain began to pour on the King’s Course, the Northern Irishman made back-to-back bogeys and a hat-trick of gains sent 2016 champion Broadhurst to the summit as he signed for a 66.
Clarke had played beautifully all day without seeing the putts drop but after some deep study of an eight-footer on the final green, he made a closing birdie to sign for a 69 and share top spot at nine under.
Kiwi Steven Alker and American Jerry Kelly were a shot off the lead, two clear of former Ryder Cup captains Pádraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie, Australian Stuart Appleby, Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, and Els, who carded a second consecutive 69.
Clarke is looking to be just the fourth player after Gary Player, Bob Charles and Tom Watson to win both The Open and Senior Open and he is determined to get over the line after leading for 36 holes last year and finishing third behind Stephen Dodd.
“It would be pretty cool to have both of them sitting beside each other,” he said. “I would love to win the Senior Open as well as The Open.
“Tomorrow I give myself an opportunity again. I did it last year and I gave myself an opportunity. Felt like I didn’t quite play well enough on the Sunday.
“Doddy came through and played great. Hopefully hit a couple more putts and give myself a better chance coming down the last few holes.
“I was really pleased with the way I played today. I was conservative, I played away from quite a few flags but still gave myself enough opportunities. I just didn’t make them.”
– Report from DP World Tour website