Joint overnight leader Marc Warren dropped back to tenth place in the British Masters at The Grove after following up his 66 with a second-round 69.
Richard Bland stormed to the top of the leaderboard at the halfway point in the tournament with a superb 64.
In contrast, tournament host Luke Donald crashed out, only adding a second round of 70 to his opening 77 to finish five over par and miss the cut by five shots.
Donald joked: “It was nice to finish with a few birdies and I thought as host they might give me another nine holes to try and make the cut, but it was not to be.”
Englishman Bland carded his flawless 64 late in the day to move to 11 under par, a shot ahead of compatriot Andrew Johnston and Swede Alexander Noren.
Bland has yet to win a European Tour event in almost 400 appearances, but a new aggressive approach has helped the 43-year-old record six top-ten finishes and just two missed cuts in 2016.
“It’s by far the best year of my career and there is so much more still to play for,” the world No 127 said.
“Suddenly you start thinking about your world ranking and the possibility of playing in some majors next year. I want to keep the foot down and make it an unbelievable year and to win here would be a huge honour.”
Playing partners Johnston and Noren had led for much of the day after matching rounds of 65 which featured a three-shot swing on their final hole as Noren double-bogeyed and Johnston made birdie.
Johnston hit the headlines in April by winning his first European Tour title in the Spanish Open and admitting he could not wait to get home afterwards to “get hammered” with friends and family. The 27-year-old Londoner has since become better known by his nickname “Beef” and is hugely popular with spectators. But the world No 79 also has some serious goals on the course and would love to win the £500,000 first prize on home soil tomorrow.
“It would be massive,” said Johnston. “I didn’t play very well last week and worked really hard Monday to Wednesday because I wanted to come here and do really well.”
Scotland’s Scott Jamieson and the English pair of Tommy Fleetwood and Anthony Wall were two shots off the lead on nine under, with Chris Wood, Richard Sterne and Dunhill Links winner Tyrrell Hatton a further stroke back.
Jamieson is currently 117th on the Race to Dubai, with only the top 110 after next week’s Portugal Masters keeping their card for next season, but has been inspired by compatriot Warren, who jumped from 125th to 70th by finishing fifth behind Hatton on Sunday.
“It’s amazing how quickly things can change,” Jamieson said after a flawless 65. “Marc went from possibly losing his card to maybe playing in all the Final Series events, but I still have two big days ahead of me. It’s tough but you have to face it as a challenge. It’s obviously not an ideal situation but I just have to trust in my ability.”
Wood carded a 66 to boost his chances of joining Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie in winning the BMW PGA Championship and British Masters in the same year. “It’s beginning to become a target,” Wood said. “What a motivation, to try to get your name up with those guys.”