Tommy Fleetwood reignited his bid to win the Race to Dubai in what is shaping up to be an epic duel with Justin Rose as defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick hit the front at the DP World Tour Championship.
Rose needs to finish no worse than solo fifth, and ahead of his fellow Englishman Fleetwood, at the season-ending event in Dubai to have any chance of being crowned European number one for a second time.
The 2013 U.S. Open champion ended the first round in a share of second spot, taking the upper hand with Fleetwood seven shots back on one over.
It is very much all to play for this weekend, though, after Fleetwood carded a magnificent seven-under second round of 65 to raise hopes of an epic battle in the desert this weekend.
A bogey at 18 resulted in Rose signing for a two-over 70, slipping to joint-third on eight under and leading Fleetwood by just the two strokes heading into moving day.
Fleetwood started the week with a double-bogey playing in the final group as Rose, but it was a different story when he went out much earlier than his compatriot on Friday.
The three-time European Tour winner birdied the first two holes and went on to pick up another six shots in a much-needed surge, his only bogey coming at the seventh.
Rose, who claimed the 2007 Order of Merit by winning the final event of the season, looked to be building up a head of steam when he made back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15, but missed a short putt for par at the last after a poor approach shot.
Sergio Garcia, the only other contender to claim the Harry Vardon Trophy, is lurking on five-under following a three-under 69, five shots adrift of Fitzpatrick with the Spaniard needing to win on Sunday to have any chance of snatching the title.
Back-to-back rounds of 67 were enough to give Fitzpatrick a one-stroke advantage over another Englishman, Tyrrell Hatton, who charged into contention for a third victory in six weeks with a sublime nine-under 63.
A bounce back birdie to finish on the last.-- The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 17, 2017
And a one-shot lead for the defending champ. pic.twitter.com/SZrL3MTzlA
A huge putt at the fifth gave Hatton an eagle and he would have been a joint-leader at the halfway mark but for a bogey at 18.
Overnight leader Patrick Reed dropped back to seven under with a level-par second round, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Julian Suri share third spot with Rose.