World number one Rory McIlroy and second-ranked Luke Donald shared the lead with little-known Briton Marc Warren after the DP World Tour Championship second round on Friday.
Overnight leader Donald did not drop a shot to par as he returned a four-under-par 68 for an 11-under total of 133 at the European circuit's season-ending event.
Ryder Cup team mate McIlroy carded a solitary bogey at the fourth but still went one better with a 67. Scot Warren, playing in the last match of the day alongside Donald, also eclipsed the world number two as he fired a 67.
Branden Grace (65) and Louis Oosthuizen (67), South African compatriots and close friends, were tied for fourth spot on 134.
Sergio Garcia, competing this week for the first time since Europe's Ryder Cup win in September, equalled the course record with a swashbuckling eight-under 64.
The 32-year-old Spaniard, who had laser eye surgery last month to correct astigmatism, collected only four pars all day in a rollercoaster round at the Greg Norman-designed Earth course.
Garcia produced a flawless front nine containing five birdies and four pars. He then played the inward half without a regulation figure, notching two eagles, four birdies, two bogeys and a triple bogey at the par-four 16th to finish on 137.
One of the day's best performances came from Briton Danny Willett who stormed home in just 29 shots to return a 65 for 136.