Dubai - Rory McIlroy will go into the final round of the $8 million DP World Tour Championship in Dubai just one shot off leader Andy Sullivan after a commanding seven-under-par 65 on Saturday.
The Northern Irishman is desperate to finish a frustrating and injury-marred season on a high and the world number three is also on the verge of winning the Race to Dubai.
He could make it a double on Sunday if he can overcome the challenge of the always-smiling Englishman Sullivan, who managed to retain a one-shot lead on top of the leaderboard with a four-under-par 68.
Sullivan was at 16-under-par 200, while McIlroy's best round in seven visits to the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates took him to 15-under-par 201.
American Patrick Reed was in third place two shots behind McIlroy after a four-under-par round of 68, while Emiliano Grillo of Argentina and Byeong-hun An of Korea were tied fourth at 204.
An shot the second best round of the day, a 66, and Grillo, struggling for most of the day, finished with four birdies in a row for a 71.
The battle for the Race to Dubai crown remains a tight one with England's Danny Willett, who started the tournament just 1,613 points behind McIlroy, remaining within striking distance at 11-under-par 205 after a round of 67.
Willett was tied for sixth place along with Matthew Fitzpatrick (68) of England and Thongchai Jaidee (69) of Thailand.
Willett responded in fine fashion to McIlroy putting up all the red numbers on the board by making a birdie on the par-5 14th, an eagle on the par-4 15th - where he sank a 30-foot putt after driving the green - and then a regulation birdie on the 18th.
McIlroy's only bogey of the day came on the par-4 12th hole where he found the fairway bunker with his drive. But he bounced back with three birdies in a row after that.
And yet the defending Race to Dubai champion was not satisfied with his effort of 65 - his best round in the tournament.
"I played fantastically well. I could have been five-under through five easily. I hit the ball beautifully," said McIlroy.
"Yeah, everything was just firing today and that's why I'm walking off the golf course a little bit disappointed because that 65 could have easily been a 62 or a 61.
"But still, I am in a great position going into tomorrow. I am going to be in the final group, which is where I want to be. I might be one shot behind but those are deficits I've made up before."
Willett was happy to remain in the mix.
"I said at the beginning of the week, somewhere there or thereabouts with nine holes to go on Sunday is where we want to be," he said.
"And luckily, it looks like we're not going to be a ridiculous way behind. If you can keep it to two or three shots, anything can happen."
Sullivan, who continued to wow the crowds with his putting, made a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th and then saved a par from 20 feet on the 18th to remain one ahead of McIlroy.
"I know Rory is going to have a good run at it tomorrow. For me, it's about taking them chances for me and to see where we finish," Sullivan, the world number 53, said.
"I am just looking forward to it, playing with him on the last day of the DP World is going to be amazing."
Two-time defending champion Henrik Stenson's woes continued as he stayed far behind the leaders following a third-round 72.
A double-bogey seven on the 14th did not help as the Swede world number six goes into the final round at two-over 218, 18 shots behind the leader.
World number five Justin Rose also had a forgettable day. In with a chance to win the Race to Dubai if he won the tournament, the Englishman shot himself out of contention with a 78 that included two double bogeys on the back nine.
Complete third-round scores in the $8 million DP World Tour
Championship on Saturday at the par-72 Earth course of Jumeirah Golf
200 - Andy Sullivan (ENG) 66-66-68
201 - Rory McIlroy (NIR) 68-68-65
203 - Patrick Reed (USA) 70-65-68
204 - Byeong-Hun An (KOR) 70-68-66, Emiliano Grillo (ARG) 69-64-71
205 - Danny Willett (ENG) 68-70-67, Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 68-69-68, Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 69-67-69
206 - Branden Grace (RSA) 68-69-69, Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 71-65-70
207 - Francesco Molinari (ITA) 67-71-69, Chris Wood (ENG) 68-70-69
208 - Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 71-70-67, Victor Dubuisson (FRA) 72-67-69, Martin Kaymer (GER) 66-71-71, Alex Noren (SWE) 71-66-71
- Joost Luiten (NED) 69-72-68, Luke Donald (ENG) 69-72-68, Richie
Ramsay (SCO) 71-70-68, Gary Stal (FRA) 71-70-68, Peter Uihlein (USA)
71-69-69, Alejandro Canizares (ESP) 68-71-70, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT)
210 - Kristoffer Broberg (SWE) 70-73-67, Gregory Bourdy
(FRA) 73-68-69, Marc Warren (SCO) 72-68-70, Tyrrell Hatton (ENG)
211 - Julien Quesne (FRA) 73-71-67, Anthony Wall (ENG)
71-70-70, Louis Ooosthuizen (RSA) 73-68-70, Ian Poulter (ENG) 66-74-71,
Lucas Bjerregaard (DEN) 69-71-71, Thomas Pieters (BEL) 69-69-73,
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 73-65-73,
212 - Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN)
70-74-68, Jaco van Zyl (RSA) 72-70-70, Jamie Donaldson (WAL) 70-71-71,
Anirban Lahiri (IND) 73-67-72, Marcus Fraser (AUS) 66-72-74
213 - Ross Fisher (ENG) 69-73-71, Maximilian Kieffer (GER) 71-71-71, Pablo Larrazabal (ESP) 69-72-72
- Stephen Gallacher (SCO) 73-72-69, Shane Lowry (IRL) 75-70-69, Rikard
Karlberg (SWE) 72-72-70, Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP) 68-74-72, Fabrizio
Zanotti (PAR) 68-73-73
215 - James Morrison (ENG) 71-73-71, Lee Westwood (ENG) 71-70-74
216 - Graeme Storm (ENG) 73-72-71, Eddie Pepperell (ENG) 71-72-73
215 - Lee Slattery (ENG) 76-71-68, Rafa Cabrera-Bello (ESP) 76-70-69, Justin Rose (ENG) 71-66-78
217 - David Howell (ENG) 72-76-69
218 - Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 77-72-69, Henrik Stenson (SWE) 77-69-72, Alexander Levy (FRA) 74-71-73
219 - Raphael Jacquelin (FRA) 76-69-74,
220 - Scott Hend (AUS) 77-69-74