London, April 14: Francesco Molinari took a one-shot lead into the final nine holes of the Masters, with Tiger Woods his nearest rival at Augusta.
On a day when play had been brought forward by several hours due to the anticipated arrival of thunderstorms in the afternoon, Molinari teed off leading Woods and Tony Finau by two.
Yet four-time Masters champion Woods - seeking a first major title in 11 years - reduced his arrears by turning in 35 as Molinari and Finau shot 36 over the first nine.
Molinari had led by three after five holes but headed to the 10th a solitary stroke clear of Woods at 13 under, with Finau and Brooks Koepka two off the pace.
The overnight leader's play over the front nine was far from faultless as rising winds made life tricky, but he initially salvaged a succession of pars with sensational scrambling skills.
Molinari drained a 13-footer on the first hole, before producing brilliant up-and-downs on the fifth, which Woods and Finau bogeyed, and sixth to stay at 13 under.
At that point, he was three clear, but Molinari finally faltered on the seventh - dropping his first shot in 50 holes to fall one short of Stuart Appleby's record for the longest bogey-free streak at the Masters.
Woods hit his approach to tap-in distance at the same hole, meaning a two-shot swing that left the 14-time major champion just one off the pace heading to the par-five eighth.
All three players in the final group birdied that hole, before Woods produced a magnificent lag putt from 70 feet on the ninth to ensure he was able to rescue par and stay on Molinari's heels.
Ian Poulter, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay were not out of the running at 10 under, while Bryson DeChambeau was well down the field but made an ace at the par-three 16th.