Augusta - Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy were set for a Saturday showdown at the Masters, going out together in the third round's final pairing.
The 22-year-old Texan and the 26-year-old from Northern Ireland, along with top-ranked Jason Day, a 28-year-old Australian, are the flag-bearers of golf's new generation, taking over top-billing duties from fast-fading Tiger Woods.
And their first weekend outing together at the year's first major will be a huge crowd-puller on a blustery day when low scoring should prove to be difficult.
Defending champion Spieth leads the tournament for the sixth straight round, but he saw a five-stroke lead crumble to just one by the end of Friday's action.
He is on 4-under at the halfway stage, one clear of McIlroy, who moved ominously up the leaderboard in the second round with a fine 71 in tough playing conditions.
New Zealander Danny Lee and Scott Piercy of the United States share third sport a further shot back, with three players -- American Brandt Snedker, Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark -- adding further color to an international leaderboard on 143.
Day trails on 145, but he is just five strokes off the pace and still very much in the hunt.
Spieth - aiming to become just the fourth player after Tiger Wooods, Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo to win back-to-back Masters titles -- said he was eager to tee off in the company of McIlroy but warned that he was keeping the bigger picture in mind.
"I mean, there's the potential tomorrow for someone to shoot a few under and move up into the lead from outside the top 25," he said after Friday's round.
"There's a potential for that with what I saw on the last six holes today, the way the course was playing. So I don't think either one of us is focused on each other. I think we're focused on the golf course."
McIlroy also has much at stake this week as he tries, for the second straight year, to become just the sixth man to win all four major titles, joining Woods, Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.
But he also has another matter to settle with his final-round collapse in the 2011 Masters, when he let slip a four-shot lead on the last day, still festering in his mind.
"I sort of feel that Augusta owes me something and I have come with that attitude," he said Friday. "I have come here to get something that I should have had a long time ago.
"You need to be so focused and in control of your emotions here. It's about not getting fazed and mentally I have been good the last couple of days. I need to keep that going for the next two days."
Day, who won the last major to be contested at the PGA Championship last August, remains optimistic despite back pain concerns.
Patience, he insisted, was the key factor.
"Definitely, that's why I'm just trying to say to myself, just kind of keep myself in it, just got to keep grinding out until it's over and three, four, five shot lead can change in a hole or two," he added.