Ronan Mullarney looks set to secure his best finish of the season at The Eagle Orchid Scottish Masters but he will be aiming higher as he heads into the final round inside the top-five in Fife.
The Galway man fired six birdies in a bogey-free six-under 64 to reach eight-under-par, good for a share of fourth place after two rounds at Leven Links, as he looks to potentially mount a final round challenge.
He will need to claw back a five-shot deficit, however, with Scotland’s Michael Stewart leading the way at 13-under-par after the low round of the day as he signed for eight birdies – six of which came in his first seven holes – for a 62.
His lead is just two shots over Brandon Robinson Thompson and Stoke Rochford’s Nick Watson, who are both at 11-under-par after a pair of 65s, with Mullarney joined by a trio of Englishmen in Mark Young, Joe Brooks and Jack South at eight-under.
Mullarney’s best finish this season is 17th at the Northern Ireland Masters at Clandeboye a few weeks ago but this is an excellent chance for him to beat that and give himself a late Order of Merit boost.
Meanwhile, Dermot McElroy is on track for yet another top-10 finish as the Ballymena man – who will only be denied a Challenge Tour card next season by a hugely unlikely set of events – moved up to eighth with five birdies and a bogey in a 66 to reach seven-under-par.
He’s joined at that mark by Whitehead’s John-Ross Galbraith, who fired a superb 64 in his second round, while last week’s winner Stuart Grehan signed for a 68 to sit a shot further back at six-under-par.
Luke Donnelly came closest to joining them in the final round, but a two-birdie, one-bogey 69 left him two shots too many for the cut line as he finished his week at one-under-par.
The K Club’s Conor O’Rourke and Cork’s John Hickey both finished at level-par after rounds of 68 and 71 respectively, with Daniel Brennan and Wexford’s Rhys Clarke finishing a shot further back at one-over-par.
Dundalk’s Daniel Mulligan finished strongly with a three-under 67 but that only got him back up to two-over-par after a 75 on day one.