Former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari and Scotland's Craig Lee share a narrow one-stroke lead at the halfway point of the Joburg Open.
With three places at the Open Championship up for grabs to those finishing in the top ten, the duo head a packed leaderboard with a further 14 players within three shots of the lead.
For Lee, there could be no greater incentive, having never played in a major championship, and he followed his opening 65 with a four-under-par 67 on the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington club's West Course.
That took the 36-year-old long-time qualifying school regular to 11-under-par, having played his first round on the par-72 East Course in seven-under.
"The goal was to not fall back and there's a strong field behind you, so it was important that I didn't slip back," Lee said.
Molinari began his week with a seven-under 64 on the West Course and followed it up with a four-under 68 on the East Course to stay at the head of the field.
The 32-year-old from Turin, who is now injury-free after a being dogged by a thumb injury that required surgery, mixed five birdies and a single bogey on Friday to put himself in contention for a third European Tour title and a first since the summer of 2010.
Coetzee in contention
In closest attendance just one back after 36 holes were England's David Horsey and South African George Coetzee (68), who is looking for his maiden success on the European circuit.
Horsey enjoyed an eight-under 63 on the West Course and is relishing the battle for Open places, as well as this weekend's title.
"It's an added bonus," the Englishman told the European Tour's website."I think it's a good system, a good change from the R&A to do that.
"It makes the qualifying a bit fairer and spreads it out over a longer period rather than making it a 36-hole sprint. It's at the back of my mind at the moment, but it's certainly a bonus to consider near the end of the week."
Finland's Roope Kakko posted an eight-under 64 on the East Course to lie on nine-under 134, in a seven-player share of fifth place that also included England's Danny Willett and James Heath, and Scotland's Alastair Forsyth. Forsyth added a steady 70 to his impressive opening 64.
Yorkshire's Simon Dyson is among those who cannot earn a place in the Open at Royal Liverpool through this tournament, having failed to make the cut.
Dyson posted back-to-back rounds of 70 to be three-under, but he needed to pick up another shot to make it through to the weekend.