Rory McIlroy remains firmly in the hunt at the rain-delayed Hero Dubai Desert Classic as he sits two shots behind the leading pack – although the possibility of a blockbuster third-round grouping with Patrick Reed was closed off as they will play in different threesomes on Sunday.
An eagle on the 13th sent McIlroy on his way to a second-round 70 to move to eight-under-par at a tournament now scheduled for a Monday finish,
That leaves the Irish man two shots off England's Richard Bland, Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and American amateur Michael Thorbjornsen.
It was a disappointing day for the rest of the Irish contingent with Shane Lowry, Tom McKibbin and Padraig Harrington all finishing towards the bottom of the leaderboard.
Lowry’s tournament effectively came to a halt on the par-three seventh as he took a quadruple bogey and despite three birdies coming in, he finished one-over-par.
McKibbin was always in trouble after a first-round 74, but he exited the tournament with a much-improved 71 with his card containing three birdies and two bogeys to join Lowry on one-over-par.
Harrington was in even worse shape after a horrible 81 first round, but he was one of the hottest players on the course over the drawn out second round.
A bogey on six proved his only blemish as he rolled in eight birdies in all for a brilliant 65 to finish on two-over-par.
Like McIlroy, Reed posted 66-70 over the first two rounds - played over three day – but he will play alongside England's Matt Wallace and Julien Brun of France at 11.31am with McIlroy, Bernd Wiesberger [Austria] and Dan Bradbury [England] out next at 11.42am.
McIlroy insists he did not feel the need to acknowledge Reed after an incident on the range prior to the event.
According to a report on Spanish website ten-golf.com, Reed threw a tee towards McIlroy after being snubbed by the world number one.
Asked what had happened in his pre-tournament press conference, McIlroy said: "I was down by my bag and he came up to me, and I was busy working and sort of doing my practice, and I didn't really feel like... I didn't feel the need to acknowledge him.
"So I didn't see a tee coming my direction at all, but apparently that's what happened. And if roles were reversed and I'd have thrown that tee at him, I'd be expecting a lawsuit."
That was a reference to the legal action Reed is taking on several fronts following his decision to join the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series.