Rory McIlroy will head into the final round of the DP World Tour Championship with a one-shot lead after carding a five-under-par 67 at Jumeriah Golf Estates to move to 14 under in the European Tour's season finale.
The Holywood star is a two-time winner of the event and a third victory would make it back-to-back wins worldwide after his PGA Tour triumph at the CJ Cup last month.
He has not achieved that feat since 2014, when he won the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA Championship – his fourth and last major success to date – on consecutive starts.
That looked a distant prospect as he lost his first three matches in September’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, where his victory over Xander Schauffele in the singles was followed by an emotional interview in which he said he felt he had let his team-mates down.
Since then he has parted ways with swing coach Pete Cowen and returned to long-time mentor Michael Bannon, revealing this week that he was taking more personal ownership of his game.
The move seems to be paying dividends and he will head into the final round over the Earth Course one shot clear of England’s Sam Horsfield and two ahead of Scot Robert MacIntyre and Swede Alexander Bjork.
Entering the day a shot off the lead after a double bogey on the last on day two, McIlroy led by two as he recovered from an opening bogey with birdies on the second, third, sixth, ninth, 10th and 14th.
He got a lucky break when his tee-shot at the par-three 17th looked to be heading for the water but settled on the rocks and, while he could not save par there, a birdie on the last moved him ahead of Horsfield, who dropped a shot on the same hole.
A two-time winner in 2020, Horsfield is looking for the biggest victory of his career and carded a 69 on day three after holding a share of the lead after 36 holes.
MacIntyre holed a 72-foot putt for birdie on the fourth and added an eagle on the seventh but also bogeyed the last after finding the water in his 67.
Shane Lowry is 11 under for the tournament after a round of 71. The Clara man shares fifth place with John Catlin, Joachim Hansen and Collin Morikawa, who is poised to become the first US player to land the lucrative Race to Dubai.
"I'm right where I want to be," McIlroy told reporters after his round. "I want to be contending on Sundays in golf tournaments and feel like I'm back to playing the way I should.
"I got off to a really nice start on the back nine. I gave myself a good chance on 14 and 16 and didn't convert those. Then bogey on 17, which in the end was a good bogey.
"I just thought it was important to make birdie at the last to get into the final group as well. I knew that putt was to get into the final group and I wanted to do that, so it was a nice way to finish."