Bidding to play in the event for the 13th consecutive occasion, the 37-year-old Glaswegian sits second in a 36-hole shootout for three coveted spots after carding a seven-under-par 65 in windy conditions at Dubai Hills.
In his first competitive outing since playing himself back on to the European Tour by finishing 19th in the Qualifying School in Spain in November, Warren signed for eight birdies to sit a shot behind Englishman Callum Shinkwin.
Warren’s effort left him two shots ahead of the players sharing third spot, Shinkwin’s compatriot Ross McGowan and Frencman Victor Riu, with Jack McDonald, Scott Henry and Liam Johnston next best among the Scottish hopefuls on 72.
Playing in the event without a practice round after finishing just outside the top 60 on his Rolex Series debut in Abu Dhabi, Bob MacIntyre had to settle for a 73, two better than Simon Dunn while Bradley Neil had a 77.
Grant Forrest, who also made the cut in the Abu Dhabi event, withdrew but still has a chance of getting into the Desert Classic’s 30th staging after climbing to third reserve over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Scott Jamieson is hoping his strong start to the season can help earn him a place in the WGC-Mexico Championship next month. The 35-year-old finished joint 11th in Abu Dhabi to add to his third place in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa in December.
“It is an encouraging start to the year,” admitted Florida-based Jamieson, who won just over £90,000 for his latest performance. “It has given a few more points, but I will probably need another couple of good weeks to get into the WGC Mexico Championship.
“I’ve got to try and get a few starts over there this year seeing that I live over there now. It would certainly make the travel easier. If the opportunity came up, I’m certainly going to go for it. But, at the same time, I’m not giving up the European Tour. It’s way too much to give up.”