With three more nerve-racking days to come in the United Arab Emirates event, the projected standings had the quartet still inside the all-important top 15 on the money-list after all of them started with par-breaking efforts at Al Hamra Golf Club.
Johnston and Law carded matching three-under-par 69s to sit joint-seventh, three shots off the lead, held by Spaniard Adri Arnaus and Swede Niklas Lemke, while Forrest and MacIntyre both signed for 71s.
As the desert dust settled at the end of the first circuit, Johnston was up to seventh on the projected list, Forrest down to tenth, Law up to 11th and MacIntyre just clinging on in 15th position after dropping two places.
“It was good,” said Johnston, a two-time winner on the second-tier circuit this season, of his day’s work. “I feel like I left a few out there, but I’m pleased. A third win would be brilliant, but three more good rounds and we’ll see where we are.”
Law, who has been in a card-winning position since claiming the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge in Aviemore in June, was level-par after 13 holes before transforming his round with three late birdies.
“You have to stay in the present regarding looking at the rankings but you can’t hide from it,” insisted the Aberdonian. “It’s the same with leaderboards. You need to know what’s going on.
“I’m happy knowing what the script is and what is happening. Hopefully I just keep doing what I’m doing and I’ll be there on thereabouts on Saturday.”
Needing to finish in the top two to get in the card mix, Ewen Ferguson and Calum Hill also got off to promising starts as they both fired two-under 70s to sit in a share of 13th spot.
“I’m going for everything and have nothing to lose,” said former British Boys champion Ferguson after making five birdies while Hill’s card was illuminated by red figures in a row from the sixth.
Elsewhere, Gemma Dryburgh progressed to the second phase of the inaugural LPGA Q-Series at Pinehurst in joint-18th position. She had a two-over 290 total for the first 72 holes and now faces the same again at the North Carolina venue in that particular card battle.