Melbourne - South Australian journeyman Paul Spargo will take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Australian Masters after shooting a one-under 71 on Saturday, with double defending champion Adam Scott lurking four strokes behind.
World number two Scott rued a bogey-strewn front nine but made up ground with four birdies after the turn during a hot and windy afternoon at Metropolitan Golf Club.
Sunday is expected to bring more of the fluky winds that have made low scores rare at the sandbelt course and Scott said a good start was key to winning an unprecedented third trophy in the tournament.
"All the signs were good and my swing felt the best of any today," the 34-year-old told reporters after mixing four bogeys with five birdies.
"The front nine is so key ... turning in five or six-under is really possible and I just need to make it happen.
"I need to turn somewhere near the leaders."
Spargo, who started the day two strokes behind overnight leader and playing partner Michael Wright, wobbled in the back nine with bogeys on the 12th and 14th but held firm thereafter, draining a clutch putt for par on the last to hold the Queenslander off.
His 71 put him on an eight-under total of 208, a stroke in front of Queenslander Wright, who had marched out to 11-under after a solid front nine but dropped four strokes coming in to fall a stroke adrift of Spargo, ranked 1,126th in the world.
Local amateur Lucas Herbert profited in the relative calm of the morning to shoot the tournament's best round of 65 and was in a group of three in third place, a further shot back.
Former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy's 71 was enough to keep him in the frame, three strokes behind Spargo, while Boo Weekley remains an outside chance, six off the pace after a 70.
Last year's U.S. Masters champion Scott will still fancy his chances of clawing back in front, with his aura expected to loom large over the field of local grafters should he make an early charge.
"Anyone sitting in my position tomorrow is going out with no pressure," said Scott. "Posting a number is a big thing in a golf tournament, certainly with some tough finishing holes right here.
"I don't think it crushes (the competition) but it makes them think and thinking can be dangerous in golf."
Leading scores after the third round of the Australian Masters at the Metropolitan course (par-72) in Melbourne on Saturday (Australia unless stated):
208 - Paul Spargo 70-67-71
209 - Michael Wright 67-68-74
210 - Lucas Herbert (Am) 75-70-65, Nick Cullen 73-71-66, James Nitties 72-71-67
211 - Geoff Ogilvy 69-71-71, Josh Younger 70-70-71
212 - Chris Campbell 72-74-66, Nick O'Hern 76-69-67, Adam Bland 75-68-69, Kim Felton 71-70-71, Adam Scott 73-68-71, Aron Price 68-73-71, Matthew Griffin 71-69-72, Matthew Guyatt 70-69-73
213 - Rohan Blizard 74-71-68, Matthew Millar 74-70-69, Brett Rumford 74-68-71, Daniel Valente 72-70-71, Jarrod Lyle 72-70-71, Bryden Macpherson 70-71-72, Peter Wilson 70-71-72, Mathew Goggin 71-69-73
214 - Zac Blair (USA) 70-75-69, Stephen Dartnall 72-73-69, Andrew Martin 71-73-70, Boo Weekley (USA) 72-72-70, Benjamin Clementson 74-70-70, Robert Allenby 70-73-71, Tom Bond 70-72-72, Anthony Houston 71-68-75
215 - Kyle Stanley (USA) 69-73-73
219 - Jin Jeong (KOR) 73-70-76