Li takes narrow Dubai lead with McIlroy in close contention

Rory McIlroy enjoyed a birdie-laden Saturday but remains one shot behind Dubai Desert Classic leader Li Haotong after round three.

Dubai Desert Classic leader Li Haotong   -  Getty Images

Li Haotong produced a sensational third-round 64 to move one shot clear of Rory McIlroy heading into the final day of the Dubai Desert Classic.

Li found himself three behind leader McIlroy going into round three after the Northern Irishman completed 36 holes early on Saturday.

McIlroy had seven holes to play when play was stopped on Friday, and he picked up five birdies to move two clear of overnight leader Jamie Donaldson.

When he returned later in the day McIlroy struggled for early momentum and that allowed Li to make his move, the Chinese picking up four shots on his front nine holes.

Meanwhile, McIlroy carded two bogeys, scores he would come to regret at the end of day three.

Li's strong front nine was mirrored on the way home, an eighth birdie of the day completing a sizzling 64 taking him to 20-under.

"I've never been in this position before so it's going to be fun out there tomorrow," Li told the European Tour.

"Hopefully I can do my best out there and have some low scores.

"I just want to play by myself and play my game. I thought if I just stayed patient, I'll play good. So I just stayed patient all day."

He was unable to shake the attention of McIlroy, though, as the four-time major winner came roaring back into contention with a blemish-free run to the clubhouse.

His second shot at the 10th rolled to within 10 feet to set up an eagle and birdies at 13, 16 and 18 meant Li was only able to take a one-shot advantage, setting up the prospect of a thrilling final day.

Alexander Levy and Haydn Porteous sit a further two back after 65s on Saturday, the former briefly flirting with the top of the leaderboard when he aced the par-three fourth – the second hole-in-one of the week.

Two dropped shots on the back nine cost the Frenchman a share of second with McIlroy, while Porteous finished with a flourish – carding three successive birdies.

Round of the day went to Andy Sullivan, the Englishman surging up the leaderboard with a 63, leaving him on -16, four adrift of Li but Donaldson's challenge faltered with a three-over 75.

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