Castle Park's Wilson, a former Scottish Boys' champion, opened with a seven-under-par 65 at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club to sit joint-second, a shot behind newly-crowed South African Stroke-Play champion Casey Jarvis.
Wilson, who gave a good account of himself in the African Amateur Championship at Leopard Creek earlier in the month, started birdie-eagle before making further gains at the fifth, seventh, 12th, 15th and 18th, with his lone bogey coming at the par-3 16th.
As 16-year-old Jarvis maintained his red-hot form with a flawless nine-under-par 63, Howie also started his title bid on a positive note by carding a an eagle and seven birdies in signing for a six-under 66 to sit in a share of fifth position.
With the leading 64 players at the conclusion of the 36-hole qualifier advancing to the match-play phase, another Peebles player, Stephen Roger, is joint-15th on 68, with Balmore's Stuart Wilson (70), Irvine's Stuart Easton (71) and South Africa-based Scot Aran Sinclair (72) also on course to progress.
In the pro ranks, Howie's older brother, Craig, rounded off a promising start to his Challenge Tour campaign by tying for 15th behind home winner Christiaan Bezuidenhout in the Dimension Data Pro Am at Fancourt in South Africa.
Howie, who tied for 10th in the Limpopo Championship at the start of the second-tier circuit's new three-event South African Swing, signed off with a 71 for an 11-under-par 278 total as Bezuidenhout claimed a dramatic wire-to-wire victory with a last-hole eagle.
“To win it with an eagle on the last is really special,” said the 25-year-old after pipping compatriot George Coetzee and, in the process, secure a jump into the world's top 50 for the first time. “This is a special event for the South African boys and I’ve always wanted to put my name on that trophy. I’ve done it now, so I’m pretty pleased."
Gemma Dryburgh finished joint-41st as South Korean Inbee Park won the Women's Australian Open for a 20th career LPGA title.
Dryburgh, the sole Scot in the field, closed with a 73 at Royal Adelaide for a two-under total on a day when Park carded a 74 to clinch the title on 14-under. She finished three strokes clear of American Amy Olson.
Although Dryburgh will still need to pre-qualify to gain entry into the field for several upcoming LPGA events in the US, making the cut this week has given the 26-year-old a place in the end-of-April reshuffle, which increases her chances of additional starts.
“It’s been a really positive week – my goal was to get myself in the reshuffle and I’ve done that so it’s been a good week,” the Aberdonian said.
“Every year I get more confident out here. This is my third year on the LPGA tour and I think every year you get more used to it and more comfortable.”