Seeking his first tournament win since the Australian Masters in November 2009, the former world No 1 recovered from a faltering start to fire a four-under-par 68 at Sherwood Country Club in California.
Boosted by a three-birdie run on the front nine and two more in the last three holes, Woods closed in on his fifth victory at his own event by posting a 17-under total of 199.
He struck a superb 8-iron approach at the par-4 last to within a foot, sparking huge roars from the gallery watching from the natural amphitheatre below the imposing clubhouse. His playing partner, US Open champion Graeme McDowell, of Northern Ireland, was alone in second after carding a 68 with Englishman Paul Casey (69) a further four shots back in third.
"I'm excited about tomorrow because of the way I've been playing," Woods told reporters after putting himself in prime position to complete his first wire-to-wire victory since the 2006 WGC-American Express Championship.
"I'm excited about how I've been hitting the golf ball and how I've been managing my game around this golf course."
Woods has never lost a tournament in which he has led by at least three strokes going into the final round and he has coped well this week on Sherwood's lightning-fast greens.
"It was a pretty good day overall," said the 14-times major winner, who embarked on the fourth swing change of his career in August, a move which now seems to be paying dividends.
"I thought I hit the ball a little bit better than I did yesterday. The greens were tough and there were a few more difficult pins today, so they were tough to get at. But four-under is a good score. I tied with Graeme today, so no loss between my lead."
McDowell remarked: "Tiger kept the ball under control today. He barely missed a fairway. That's more like him, of course. It's good to see him playing well.
"I'm enjoying the way these greens look and I'm putting well, so I've just got to hit it well tomorrow and get off to a fast start."