Francesco Molinari overcame a stuttering start to shoot a two-under-par 70 and retain a share of the lead at the Scottish Open.
The Italian fired a 10-under 62 on Thursday but paid the price for a seven at the 464-yard par four seventh as he was out in level par 36.
But he made birdies at 14 and 16 in an error-free back nine to join Swede Alexander Noren at the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage at Castle Stuart near Inverness.
Molinari said: "Following a 62 is never easy. I tried to do the same, but I knew it was going to be hard."
Noren had a second successive 66 the day after his 30th birthday and the day after his girlfriend Emelie won an event in Norway.
Argentina's big-hitting Ricardo Gonzalez is joint third with Italian Matteo Manassero, while world number one and defending champion Luke Donald's 68 means he has only three shots to make up and Phil Mickelson's 64 - after an opening 73 - rocketed the four-time major champion to within five of the lead.
Teenager Manassero, twice a winner on the European Tour already, is in the hunt for another victory - and a place in the Open - after a 64.
Manassero had seven birdies to be home in 30.
The Tour's youngest-ever champion could qualify for Royal Lytham next week with a top five finish, but his sights are set on emulating what German Marcel Siem did at the French Open last Sunday by winning to earn his spot.
"The Open is on my mind and this is my last chance," said the 19-year-old from Verona, who finished 13th at Turnberry as a 16-year-old three years ago. "I would really love to be in the Open. I like links golf and it has a special atmosphere."
Former Open champion Ernie Els survived with nothing to spare at four under - only two off the lowest-ever cut on the circuit - but it will be a weekend without Paul Casey, Paul Lawrie and Colin Montgomerie.
There was a hole-in-one at the 168-yard 11th for the second day running. England's Andrew Johnston won 168 bottles of champagne for being the first and Scot Peter Whiteford had to settle for one magnum.
"I'll have a word - maybe he can give me a couple," said Whiteford, who shot 65 to move to eight under.