The 28 year old from Thailand led for much of the third round, but spurned several good birdie chances on the back nine at The Dutch and seemed to have paid the price for his profligacy when he was caught by France’s Romain Wattel.
However, the first birdie of his inward nine at the last gave Aphibarnrat a round of 66 and a 14 under par total – one ahead of Wattel.
A shot behind halfway leaders Joakim Lagergren and Joël Stalter once the second round was completed on Saturday morning, Aphibarnrat holed a 15 footer for birdie on the fourth to keep touch with the leaders.
French rookie Stalter, who had held a one shot lead overnight before Sweden’s Lagergren completed a flawless second round to catch him, initially went ahead when he rolled in a 12 footer at the second.
Lagergren bogeyed the second but then birdied the fifth and eagled the long sixth, with Stalter keeping tabs with a gain of his own on the sixth. However, Thailand’s Aphibarnrat picked up shots at the sixth, seventh and eighth, and an outward 31 left him two ahead of the chasing pack.
Wattel had already registered five birdies in six holes around the turn when he almost holed his tee shot to the 14th – a day after Mikko Ilonen recorded the European Tour’s 1,000th ace on the same hole – and the subsequent birdie put him within one of Aphibarnrat, with Lagergren heading in the opposite direction after missing a short par putt on the 11th. Aphibarnrat missed good chances to extend his lead on the 11th and 12th, and was caught when Wattel knocked in an eight footer for birdie at the 16th.
Wattel has a chance to end his wait for a first European Tour title after a flawless 64, having twice been a European Tour runner-up and with 25 top-ten finishes to his name.
After shooting his lowest round of the season, Wattel – without a top-20 finish this campaign – said: “I’m very delighted, I played very good today. “I just tried to play my own game and I made some good putts.
“The game, it’s just up and down. I’ve been doing my best this year but it hasn’t been enough. I’ve been working with my coach and changed many things, but when you work a lot you don’t always get what you expect.”