Patrick Reed refused to buckle under immense pressure from Rory McIlroy as the Ryder Cup rivals set themselves up for a Masters Sunday showdown at Augusta National.
McIlroy closed to within one shot of the American when he chipped in for eagle at the eighth, only for Reed to produce a stunning burst of scoring which featured three straight birdies followed by eagles at both the 13th and 15th.
Reed did stumble at 16 but parred the last two to card a 67 and remain three clear of the field on 14 under, with McIlroy’s entertaining 65 ensuring a place in the final group on Sunday ahead of Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm, who were also seven under and faultless on day three.
McIlroy was clearly in his element on a rain-softened Augusta course and, after a solid start, he got into his stride with birdies at the third and fourth before enjoying a slice of good fortune at the next when he thinned his second from a fairway bunker but his ball caught the lip, with the resulting top-spin helping it bound onto the green to 15 feet.
The 28-year-old almost took the pin out with a superb strike at the sixth which set up a tap-in for birdie, and his chip-in at the long eighth hoisted him to five under for the day and nine under overall.
McIlroy struggled to make much happen over the next six holes as he settled for a run of pars, including a brilliant escape from the azaleas at the 13th, before he made a confident putt for birdie at the 15th and he did well to scramble pars on the next two holes.
Fortune shone on him again at the last when he carved his drive into the pines, but his ball kicked back out to the fairway and he took advantage to launch a towering iron to 15 feet which he converted to reach 11 under par.
The Northern Irishman will look forward to being in the final pairing with Reed on Sunday in a showdown certain to evoke memories of their swashbuckling Ryder Cup clash in 2016, but it is the American who will tee up with a strong advantage.
The overnight leader made a nervy start and slipped back to eight under with a bogey at the third, but he got the shot back at the fifth before staging his outstanding response to McIlroy’s eagle at eight in the group ahead.
Reed birdied eight, nine and 10 and, although he dropped another shot at the 12th, he bounced back with an eagle at the next and pitched in for another at 15 after his second flirted with the water hazard.
He opened the door for the chasing pack when he three-putted the 16th green after finding the lower tier, but he nailed a crucial par putt on the 17th green and shaved the hole for birdie at the last as he stayed three clear of McIlroy.
For the second year running, Fowler will go into the final round in contention thanks to a flawless 65, matching McIlroy’s outward 31 as he eagled the third and then reeled off three birdies in four holes from the fifth.
Fowler picked up further shots at 15 and 17 to close on nine under which kept him one ahead of Rahm, who also kept a bogey off his card while storming up the leaderboard.
The powerful Spaniard opened with a pair of birdies and holed a sublime chip for eagle at the eighth before following a birdie at 10 with two more at 16 and 17 to post eight under, continuing his remarkable recovery from his opening 75.
Henrik Stenson could not keep up with playing partner McIlroy as the Swede lost ground with a two-under 70 which got him to seven under, while Tommy Fleetwood raced to six under with five consecutive birdies on the back nine, although a closing bogey saw him slip into a tie for sixth with two-time champion Bubba Watson.