Despite once holding a seven-stroke advantage on the third day, Chen Xiaoma heads into the final round of the Shanghai Championship sharing the lead with Fan Zhipeng at five-under-par.
Chen's up-and-down 74 defined a round of two halves, while Fan shot an even-par 72 at the Orient (Shanghai) Golf and Country Club in the fourth event of this year's Omega China Tour.
Both of the 29-year-olds are looking for their first victory on the Tour and will play in Sunday's final flight with Liao Guiming, whose 70 put him two-under and one ahead of Asian Tour player Alex Wu Ashun and Chinese Taipei's Hsu Mong-nan, who shot 71 and 72.
Four previous champions on Tour - Wu Kangchun, Lu Wen-teh, Zheng Wengen and Li Chao - are the next names on the leaderboard and loitering within striking distance of the co-leaders.Meanwhile, Yang Taoli, the first female pro to compete on the Omega China Tour, continued her headline-making debut with a second successive 72 to lie tied-15th
Chen, the Tour's ‘Most Improved Player' last year after three top-four finishes, bagged three birdies in his first seven holes to go 10-under, which put him seven shots clear on hole eight where Fan suffered his second bogey of the round.
Chen's fortune switched after making the turn in 33. A double-bogey on 11 and dropped shots on 14, 16 and 17 resulted in a back nine of 41, although he remained upbeat.
"I'm not worried about it. My front nine was good, mainly because my short game was good so I had a lot of birdie chances. My back nine score looks bad, but I'm not worried about it," said Chen, who missed a two-foot par-putt on 17 while Fan holed from 10 feet for par.
"I lost my feel on the greens, but I'll work on this. I don't have a lot of experience of leading or playing in the final flight, but I'll just do my best," he added.
Fan, who hails from the northwest province of Gansu and has been attached to Shenzhen's Mission Hills Golf Club since 2002, was open about his desire to win, but admitted he felt fortunate to finish the day as co-leader.
"Chen Xiaoma was very good on the front nine and if he had taken his chances on the back nine, he would be the sole leader," Fan said. "I didn't play too badly, as both my bogeys on the front nine were putts that lipped out. I felt better after birdies on nine and 10. I was most disappointed to three-putt the par-five 15th, when I should have birdied."
Fan, who turned pro in January 2007, is one of the three members of China's 2006 Asian Games team in the top six, along with Wu Ashun, 22, and Wu Kangchun, 26.
"Wu Kangchun won the Sofitel Golf Championship last year in his first event since turning pro, while Wu Ashun qualified for the Asian Tour in December, so I think it could be my time for some good news. I believe I have the ability to win and now I have the chance to."
Yang continued her impressive debut in a week in which she has had to cope with updates about the earthquake in her native Sichuan province, which caused damage to her home and left her parents and elder sister's family living in a tent.
The Chengdu-born 25-year-old, who had birdies on one and five and bogeys on eight and 10, enjoyed playing with good friend Huang Mingjie, who is also from Sichuan province and matched Yang's rounds of 77, 72 and 72.
"I feel like the Gods were smiling on me today as the wind wasn't strong when I played, which meant it was good conditions," said Yang, who is playing the event at the invitation of the Orient Golf Group, who she signed with last October.
"Huang Mingjie is a very good player and was outdriving me by about 50 to 60 yards. However, it's not a very long course, so I was able to do okay."
Huang, who has had nine top-10 finishes on the Omega China Tour, was delighted to see his friend perform well under pressure.
"We've played together before in Sichuan," said the 27-year-old. "She has improved a lot and become a much steadier player. She scored well today, but she deserved it the way she played."
Huang said the pair talked about the earthquake during their round, both speaking in a Sichuan dialect, and admitted that helping in the recovery was the main motivation for him playing this week.
"I will donate all my prize money from the tournament to the relief fund, so this is the main reason why I want to finish as high as possible."