Spain's Alvaro Quiros will take a commanding lead into the final round of the Rocco Forte Open in pursuit of the victory to get his career firmly back on track.
Michael Hoey saw his challenge fade on Saturday however, as he shot a 75 to slip back to nine under par after opening with a 61 and a 68.
On a day when strong winds gusting up to 30mph made scoring hugely difficult, overnight leader Quiros was one of just seven players to break par with a third round of 70 at Verdura Golf Club.
And even that was only possible thanks to a brilliant par save on the 18th, the six-time European Tour winner producing a superb pitch off a cart path and over a television tower to within three feet of the hole.
At 16 under par, Quiros was five shots clear of South Africa’s Zander Lombard, who held the lead after an eagle on the ninth only to bogey the next three holes and double-bogey the 18th.
Spain's Pep Angles and Italy's Renato Paratore are a shot further back on 10 under, the 24-year-old Angles climbing from 31st to third thanks to a 68 which was the only sub-70 score of the day.
Northern Ireland's Hoey fell back into a six-way tie for fifth on nine under alongside David Horsey, Lee Slattery, Raphael Jacquelin, Jose-Filipe Lima and Johan Carlsson.
After winning twice on the European Tour in 2011 Quiros was ranked 21st in the world, but after trying to make swing changes he has gradually slipped to his current position of 703rd and missed 15 cuts in 23 events in 2016.
That meant the 34-year-old lost his card and he had planned to regain it via the Challenge Tour, but a victory on Sunday would give him a European Tour exemption until the end of 2018.