English 39-year-old veteran Richard Bland put himself in contention for a first European Tour title when a late birdie charge gave him a one-shot lead at the midway point of the Italian Open on Friday.
Bland carded a six under par 66 for the second round to stand at 12 under with France's Gregory Bourdy, Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, South Africa's Garth Mulroy and Scot Marc Warren all one shot back.
Bland admitted that he needs a good performance this weekend to help retain his Tour place - he currently lies 126th on The Race to Dubai, with only the top 115 keeping their cards.
"I've had a tough couple of years, but that's behind me now and I'm just trying to move forward and improve every day," said Bland who birdied the last three holes.
"There's still 36 holes to go - all it is right now is a great position. There are great players behind me, it's low scoring, so two 70s isn't going to get it done."
There were solid performances from members of Europe's Ryder Cup team taking part in the Italian Open.
Martin Kaymer's 66 took him to eight under - just three behind the leaders - while Francesco Molinari is only one stroke further back after a 69.
Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts compiled a 67 to advance to six under for the week, while there was a second straight 70 put Ryder Cup skipper Jose Maria Olazabal.