English duo Ian Poulter and Callum Shinkwin and Australian Andrew Dodt finished a testing day in a three-way tie for the lead after the third round of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
The trio all played some solid golf in wet and windy conditions at Dundonald Links in Ayrshire to top the leaderboard on nine-under 207 following 54 holes.
Poulter and Dodt carded one-under 71s, while Shinkwin, who had shared the overnight lead, signed for a level-par 72.
World No 85 Poulter, who claimed the last of his 12 European Tour victories in November 2012, held a two-shot lead with five holes to play following three birdies and one bogey on the front nine.
However, world No 405 Shinkwin’s superb eagle at the 14th gave him a share of the lead and a dropped shot from both players over the closing holes left them alongside Dodt going into the final round.
Dodt, 31, played some patient golf and hovered just off the pace all day as he mixed two birdies with two bogeys until a fine birdie at the 18th took him to nine under.
The trio are two shots clear of England’s Andy Sullivan who fired the round of the day – a five-under 67 – to move to seven under.
Sullivan teed off at 8.34 after play was brought forward due to the threat of bad weather late in the afternoon and he made the most of the slightly calmer morning conditions.
The Englishman posted six birdies in 14 holes but he looked to have hit the buffers as conditions worsened around lunchtime when he bogeyed the 16th and double-bogeyed the 17th.
Sullivan had saved the best for last, though, as he holed out from a greenside bunker at the 18th to sign off with an eagle.
Padraig Harrington, who had shared the overnight lead with 24-year-old Shinkwin and Germany’s Alexander Knappe, tumbled down the field after a disappointing round of 79.
Harrington set the tone by missing a two-foot par putt on the opening hole and he dropped a further three shots on the front nine as he struggled with his putter in the crosswinds.
The Irishman did manage a birdie on the ninth but further problems on the back nine saw him bogey the 10th and 17th and double bogey the 15th to drop into joint-23rd on two under.
Knappe triple-bogeyed the fourth after getting into trouble off the tee and he also had three bogeys in four holes from the 10th, but three birdies kept him in contention before another bogey at the last left him in a nine-way tie for eighth place on five under.
He is in good company four shots off the lead alongside the likes of American duo Matt Kuchar (73) and Rickie Fowler (74), Englishman Andrew Johnston (70) and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, who boosted his chances of snatching one of the three Open places on offer with a four-under 68.
The tough conditions resulted in a congested leaderboard with three players – Sweden’s Johan Carlsson (68), Paul Dunne of Ireland (69) and Ryan Fox of New Zealand (69) – sharing fifth place on six under, and a fascinating final round looks in prospect with better weather forecast for Sunday.