Lytham - Adam Scott was closing in on his first major title at the British Open on Sunday with Ernie Els and Tiger Woods hoping for the Australian to slip up down the back nine.
On a day of spiralling scores because of gusting sea breezes, Scott was two over for the day through 12 holes, leaving him at nine under for the tournament.
Crucially, no one in the tight pack chasing him could take advantage of the Australian's dropped shots, although a third birdie for Els at the 14th took him to six under, three behind.
Woods was a further stroke back after battling back from a triple-bogey seven at the sixth where he took two shots to get out of a deep pot bunker, but a bogey at the 13th stopped his momentum.
Ulsterman Graeme McDowell had been seen as the main threat to Scott as he was solo in second place, four shots back at the start of the day.
But his challenge dimmed with a run of three straight bogeys from the ninth to leave him at three under, six strokes behind his playing partner.
Halfway leader Brandt Snedeker briefly was alone in second, but he too shed strokes withy a double bogey seven at the seventh and two more bogeys at the 11th and 12th to slip to two under.