Maria Hernández shot a four-under-par 66 on Saturday and extended her lead to four strokes after the third round of the Lacoste Ladies Open de France.

At 12-under-par, the 28-year-old from Pamplona will go head to head against two other Spanish players in the last group on Sunday.

The defending champion Azahara Munoz, who had a three-under-par 67, lies in second place, with former Ladies European Tour No.1 Carlota Ciganda also part of the all-Spanish three ball set to head out at 12:14 local time.

At seven-under-par, Ciganda sits alongside England’s Florentyna Parker and Swiss amateur Albane Valenzuela. All three players carded level par rounds of 70 on a warm but overcast day at Golf de Chantaco in St Jean de Luz, Aquitaine.

Rookies Amy Boulden from Wales and Isabelle Boineau from France are one stroke back at six-under-par.

Hernández lost her overnight lead after stumbling to bogeys on her first and second holes, but bounced back with birdies on four, six and seven.

Three straight birdies from the 13th pushed Hernández five strokes clear of the field, before Munoz closed the gap with a birdie on 17.

The world number 415 ranked player tapped in for birdie on 13 and 14 before hitting the green in two shots and making two putts to pick up another shot on the par-5 15th.

“It was great. I hit them really close,” said Hernández, who won her sole Ladies European Tour title at the 2010 Slovak Open. “The start was a little bit rough and I don’t really know what happened. I hit one bad shot really on number two and number one. I hit it a little left and the ball did something wrong from the putter, I don’t know what happened. From there, I was playing good. I tried to go back to my game and be patient. I knew birdies were going to come because on this golf course normally you can make a ton of birdies. So I knew they were coming and just needed to be patient and play my own game.”

Munoz came from a stroke behind to win by one last year and the world number 15 from Malaga feels that she can overcome a four stroke deficit. “Four shots is nothing over 18 holes and so many things can happen on this golf course. You can go really low or you can get yourself in a lot of trouble. Tomorrow I’m just going to try to go for it and hopefully it happens,” she said.

Although Ciganda is five strokes back, she has a huge gallery of supporting friends and family from just over the Spanish border whose cheers could inspire some heroics on Sunday. The world number 62 from Pamplona is looking for her first Ladies European Tour title since last year’s Ladies German Open play-off victory and said of her 70: “I don’t think it’s a bad score because I didn’t start very well and I bogeyed the first two holes. Then I made an eagle on seven and made a few pars and two birdies on the back nine. It was a shame on the last hole that I didn’t make a birdie but it’s just golf and one more day tomorrow.”

Parker, who will play one group ahead of the all-Spanish three-ball, took the outright lead after a birdie on the third hole and she held a lead at the turn before making a bogey on 10 followed by a double on the par-3 12th, where she found the short right greenside bunker just over a ravine.

“I played very well on the front nine very well, very solid and a silly mistake on the 12th hole that set me back a bit,” said Parker, the 2014 Ladies Italian Open champion. “I’m enjoying it and having a good time.”

Boulden will be bidding to overtake Sally Watson in the 2014 rookie of the year race this week, as she currently lies €9,454 behind the Scotswoman. If Watson finishes as the last professional in the field, Boulden needs to finish fifth or better to go into first place, but the Welshwoman needs to be fourth if Watson places any higher in the field.

Collated scores at the end of round 3:

198 – Maria Hernandez (ESP)  65 67 66

202 – Azahara Munoz (ESP)  67 68 67

203 – Carlota Ciganda (ESP)  66 67 70, Albane Valenzuela (SWI)  69 64 70, Florentyna Parker (ENG)  66 67 70

204 – Amy Boulden (WAL)  69 69 66, Isabelle Boineau (FRA)  67 68 69

205 – Malene Jorgensen (DEN)  70 67 68

206 – Charley Hull (ENG)  68 67 71

207 – Minea Blomqvist (FIN)  69 69 69, Christine Wolf (AUT)  69 69 69, Noora Tamminen (FIN)  68 72 67

208 – Hannah Burke (ENG)  68 70 70, Beth Allen (USA)  73 69 66, Sophie Gustafson (SWE)  73 66 69

209 – Felicity Johnson (ENG)  68 68 73, Ariane Provot (FRA)  71 67 71, Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA)  73 70 66, Gwladys Nocera (FRA)  70 71 68, Klara Spilkova (CZE)  68 68 73

210 – Sahra Hassan (WAL)  71 70 69

211 – Bree Arthur (AUS)  69 69 73, Maha Haddioui (MAR)  66 73 72, Alexandra Vilatte (FRA)  70 68 73, Jade Schaeffer (FRA)  70 70 71, Lydia Hall (WAL)  73 69 69, Liz Young (ENG)  69 70 72

212 – Caroline Afonso (FRA)  72 67 73, Georgina Simpson (ENG)  70 68 74, Titiya Plucksataporn (THA)  74 68 70, Sophie Sandolo (ITA)  67 71 74, Elina Nummenpaa (FIN)  76 69 67

213 – Chloe Leurquin (BEL)  70 72 71, Nikki Campbell (AUS)  67 70 76, Cassandra Kirkland (FRA)  70 75 68, Rebecca Hudson (ENG)  73 69 71, Caroline Martens (NOR)  73 71 69, Ann-Kathrin Lindner (GER)  73 69 71

214 – Margherita Rigon (ITA)  73 71 70, Nikki Garrett (AUS)  72 71 71, Louise Larsson (SWE)  70 72 72, Tania Elosegui (ESP)  73 70 71, Diana Luna (ITA)  71 68 75, Eleanor Givens (ENG)  70 73 71

215 – Sophie Walker (ENG)  73 72 70, Nicole Broch Larsen (DEN)  74 71 70, Maria Salinas (PER)  72 73 70, Lucie Andre (FRA)  70 75 70

216 – Cathryn Bristow (NZL)  69 75 72, Isabell Gabsa (GER)  71 69 76, Marion Veysseyre (FRA)  70 73 73, Marta Silva Zamora (ESP)  68 74 74, Lucy Williams (ENG)  72 71 73, Krista Bakker (FIN)  69 74 73, Astrid Vayson De Pradenne (FRA)  76 68 72

217 – Anais Maggetti (SUI)  67 72 78

218 – Sally Watson (SCO)  74 70 74

222 – Karolin Lampert (GER)  71 74 77