Brett Rumford is one round away from becoming only the third Australian to win back-to-back tournaments in the 41-year history of the European Tour.
Rumford shot a 3-under 69 in windy conditions on Saturday during the third round of the China Open on the Binhai Lake Golf Club course to move to 12 under, one stroke clear of Mikko Ilonen (73). The Finn led by three shots at the halfway mark.
The Australian ended a six-year drought by capturing the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea last week.
"Things were starting to catch-up and I would have come across looking perhaps like a wet fish as I was just not in the mood to be playing golf"
Australian Brett Rumford
"It was a really tough day and a very tiring day, and I really started to feel it on the back nine," Rumford said.
"Things were starting to catch-up and I would have come across looking perhaps like a wet fish as I was just not in the mood to be playing golf. But I hung in really, really nicely as there was some really tired golf swings out there today, and I could feel the lethargy in my body.
"So tonight I will be doing my best to recover for tomorrow. But I did well to hang in there, and mentally I stayed with it but not physically."
Jack Newton and Graham Marsh are the only two Australians to have won consecutive events on tour. Newton captured the 1972 Dutch Open and then the Benson and Hedges Festival, while Marsh claimed the 1977 Colgate World Match- Play followed by the Lancombe Trophy.
Pablo Larrazabal of Spain is next at 10 under after shooting a 69, making four birdies in a row from No. 10 but dropping two strokes in his last five holes.
Former Ryder Cup player Paul Casey of England, the 2006 China Open champion, bogeyed four of his closing six holes to shoot 72 and sit seven shots off the pace. Dou Ze-cheng, the 16-year-old Chinese amateur, also hit a 72 for a share of 30th place on 2 under.