The world's top-ranked players, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald, were involved in a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the US$8 million ($9.7 million) DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
At the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates, world No1 McIlroy and No2-ranked Donald were joined at 11-under par in the season-ending European Tour event by Scotland's world No189 Marc Warren.
McIlroy (who shot a 67) missed sole possession of the lead when he failed to make a birdie on the final hole, which was played from the forward tee and reachable in two, while Donald (68) joined him and Warren (67) on top with a textbook birdie on the par-5 hole.
The leading trio were one shot ahead of South African duo of world No6 Louis Oosthuizen (67) and Branden Grace (65). Another South African, 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (67) and Scotsman Richie Ramsay (68) were tied sixth at nine-under while Australian Marcus Fraser (67) was in a group of 10 a stroke further back.
McIlroy, who complained of having a massive headache the previous night, said he felt all right on the golf course as he mixed six birdies with a solitary bogey on the fourth hole.
"I didn't feel great last night, but I felt much better this morning and felt nearly 100 per cent on the golf course," said the 23-year-old.
"I guess it's just us Irish and the skin just not used to this sort of sun. That's my excuse anyway.
"I played well. I continued to drive the ball really well and gave myself plenty of opportunities. It was a solid round and obviously, puts me in a good position going into the weekend.
"I am as motivated as I have been the whole year and I am not going to let it drop just for this week."
Donald was a picture of consistency, making two birdies on either half of the course in his bogey-free round of 68.
"I haven't dropped a shot in 36 holes, so that feels really good. But it wasn't quite as good on the greens today ... I had some opportunities on a few holes that I just misread," said the Englishman.
The round of the day, however, belonged to Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard, returning to the sport after laser eye surgery, matched the course record of eight-under par 64, but that included a triple bogey, two bogeys, two eagles and nine birdies. He did not make a single par on the back nine.
After making his triple on the 16th hole, where he dumped his eight-iron second shot from the middle of the fairway into the water, the world No22, who is making a comeback after a seven-week layoff, birdied the 17th and eagled the last to climb up to seven-under par.
The rich tournament is the season-ending championship on the European Tour and only the top-60 players in the money list qualify for it.