Gwladys Nocera of France moved into the outright lead following a dramatic third day at the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open presented by Respect.
The 10-time Ladies European Tour winner finished at seven-under-par having carded a 71 on the Gray Bear course at Golf Resort Talé.
She will start the fourth round two strokes clear of South African Lee-Anne Pace, the recent Turkish Airlines Ladies Open champion, who shot a 70, with a tightly packed leader board showing 17 players under par.
Having started the day tied with the defending champion, Line Vedel, Nocera grabbed the outright lead on the first hole after Vedel retired with a back injury.
The 24-year-old Dane hit her first two shots before crippling pain got the best of her and she drove home devastated.
The 38-year-old Nocera then ended up playing the last group in a two-ball with Swedish rookie Camilla Lennarth.
“I found it really difficult to get into the round today with Line leaving. I felt really bad for her,” Nocera said. “I wanted her to play and compete with us. I hope she is better and going to get some good treatment. It was difficult because we were only two players and I couldn’t find my rhythm.”
On another day of scorching temperatures, touching 35C at the beautiful and mountainous golf and ski resort, Nocera recorded two bogeys and three birdies.
She finished the round by making a 10-footer on the par-5 18th hole and said: “On the back nine I played much better and had a lot more birdie opportunities. I waited until 18 to make a putt.”
Nocera will be targeting her 11th LET victory and her first win in five years following the 2008 Madrid Ladies Masters.
She and Pace both tied for 14th in the tournament last year, but Pace collected her sixth trophy only six weeks ago, in Turkey.
“I played really well. I hit 16 greens so I’m very happy with that,” said the 32-year-old South African. “Hopefully, tomorrow I can drop some more putts on the last day. I like this course. I enjoy the greens and I like the slopiness, imagining the putts.”
Liz Young produced the lowest round of the week, a flawless 65, to storm through the field climbing 33 places into a share of third with fellow Englishwoman Hannah Burke on four-under-par.
With seven birdies, the 30-year-old from Hampshire equalled her own personal low round which was recorded earlier this year in New Zealand.
She even left several birdie chances on the lip including a putt from 15 feet at the par-5 ninth, which she played as her last hole.
“I did have a chance for eight under and was thinking about it being a record for me,” said, Young, who formerly competed under her maiden name, Bennett.
“It’s all about hitting it in the right spot and leaving yourself an uphill putt: pretty simple and if you put yourself in the wrong spot you can quite easily have a three-putt.”
Both she and Burke will be trying to become first-time winners on tour and all three previous winners of the tournament have enjoyed a maiden victory.
After a two-under 70, Burke said: “It’s still out there, so we’ll see how tomorrow goes. I had a double up two so I had to make a comeback.”
Due to the threat of thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon, as per the third round, the fourth round will be played from a two-tee start commencing at 7am local time. The last group, featuring Nocera, Pace and Young, will tee off at 8.40am.