Italy’s Anna Rossi

Croce was paired with Rossi in the final round, but confessed to not knowing her too well. The 21-year-old rookie from Treviso, a five-and-a-half hour drive north of the Italian capital, is playing in only her fourth event as a professional.

Rossi missed the cut in last year’s BMW Ladies Italian Open at the same venue whilst playing as an amateur. However, with only 18 holes to play, she was well placed to become the first rookie winner on Tour since Finland’s Minea Blomqvist took the OTP Bank Ladies European Open in 2004.

Rossi, the 2006 Ladies British Open Amateur Strokeplay Champion, said: “I think I can win but I don’t think about it when I play, I just play. I didn’t think about the result today so I hope I can do the same tomorrow.”

Giquel finished the day in joint third position after her best of the day 65. The 24-year-old posted six birdies on her front nine for an outward total of 29 and tied the LET record for the lowest nine holes. She then picked up a further shot at the 11th hole on her back nine.

Giquel recorded her career best finish of second in the tournament last year and said: “Finally, today my putting came together. I spent a little time on the putting green with my husband/caddy Axl and he’s changed a few things and he’s checking my alignment on most putts now.

“I shot one-over on Thursday with 37 putts and then three-under yesterday with 33 putts. Today I only had 27 putts so that was 10 putts fewer than on Thursday and that was the difference.”

Brewerton, tied with Giquel on nine-under, said: “It was a bit of a strange day. I only hit two greens on the front nine but I managed to get a couple of birdies. I was one under for the day after nine holes and then I started to play much better on the back nine. I hit more greens and got the putter going.”

Johnson added: “It was an up and down day today but I finished nicely with two birdies on holes 17 and 18. I’m hitting the ball well and rolling the ball much better. It’s much more enjoyable to play golf that way. I’m playing very well. I did a lot of work over the winter and I’m feeling more comfortable than I ever have. It should be a good shoot out tomorrow because there are a lot of people at the top of the leaderboard.”

Sweden’s Johanna Westerberg, France’s Virginie Lagoutte, South Korea’s Amy Yang, Germany’s Martina Eberl and Australia’s Sarah Kemp were tied on eight-under-par.

Denmark’s Karen-Margrethe Juul, tied for the lead with Croce and Kemp overnight, had a 73 for a share of 11th position with England’s Natalie Booth and Carmen Alonso of Spain.