Lee Westwood put himself in contention at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth after reaching the halfway stage as joint leader.
The Englishman started two strokes off overnight leader Brett Rumford as the Perth native shot an impressive 64 on the opening day at Lake Karrinyup Country Club.
But Westwood reeled in the defending champion with a colourful two-under-par 70 in windy conditions to join him at the top of the leaderboard on eight under.
The field has been cut from 156 to 80 players for Saturday’s third round, where the top 24 players after 54 holes – with the top eight players seeded – will compete in a six-hole matchplay format to determine the winner.
Westwood carded three birdies and two bogeys in his opening nine holes but still remained two shots behind Rumford after his solitary gain before they both picked up a shot at the 11th, only to each hand it back at the 13th.
The 44-year-old Westwood hit a stunning eagle at the 15th, which he also achieved in the first round, to draw level at nine under and when his Australian rival bogeyed the penultimate hole, he was one ahead.
However, Westwood dropped a shot at the last to fall back to eight under alongside Rumford, with Thailand’s Prom Meesawat, Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, Scotland’s Grant Forrest and Australian Lucas Herbert one stroke further back.
Olesen produced one of the rounds of the day with a five-under 67 which saw six birdies and a bogey, while Herbert hit three under in a rollercoaster second round of six gains, a double-bogey and one dropped shot.
Meesawat became co-leader with Westwood and Rumford following six birdies and three bogeys, only to drop a shot on the final hole, with Forrest hitting a flawless five under on the back nine to surge up the leaderboard and join the trio at seven under for the tournament.
Westwood played alongside his joint leader during the first two days and will be with the Australian once again for the third round as he looks to battle for supremacy with the reigning champion.
“We both played well.” Westwood told europeantour.com. “We haven’t given too many shots away, made a few putts and I chipped in a couple of times. It’s been fun over the first couple of days.
“I’m just trying to shoot as low as possible. I know if I carry on playing like I’m playing and a few putts start to go in, because I didn’t really hole any putts today, I’ll be thereabouts on the leaderboard.
“To be perfectly honest, matchplay is anybody’s. You’re going to need a lot of luck to win it.”
South African Zander Lombard sits on six under for sole seventh, while Australian trio Anthony Quayle, Adam Blyth and amateur Min Woo Lee, Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who was at nine under before four successive bogeys, American Sean Crocker and Italy’s Andrea Pavan are a shot further adrift.