Rory McIlroy, who hasn't won since late last year, has a chance to break through before the home fans.
McIlroy, from Northern Ireland, played 15 holes in 2-under-par on Saturday and held a three-stroke lead over Masters champion Danny Willett of England when darkness halted play in the Irish Open at the K Club in Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland.
The third-ranked McIlroy was at 9-under in the tournament that benefits his foundation late in the third round, which was delayed twice because of lightning on a rainy day.
"Today was a day to just hang in there and try not to make too many mistakes and that's what I said I wanted to do today," said McIlroy, who has never won the Irish Open and missed the cut in each of the last three years.
"No bogeys in 15 holes, that was good. I feel like I left a few out there, but at the same time, I can't complain with a three-shot lead going into tomorrow. I feel like my game is good enough that I'll keep giving myself chances, hit fairways, hit greens. If I can knock a few in, hopefully that will be good enough to get the job done tomorrow."
Willett, trying to back up his victory last month at Augusta, fell back with three bogeys on the first seven holes and had his only birdie on No. 4. He was 2-over for the day while playing alongside McIlroy in the final group.
Russell Knox of Scotland, who won the WGC-HSBC Champions last November, stumbled to his only bogey on the first hole while posting a 1-under-par 70 that left him four shots back in a tie for fourth with Richard Sterne of South Africa, who had three straight birdies through No. 12 and was 1-under for the round through 15.
Tyrell Hatton of England was five strokes back in solo fifth at even par for the day after 15 holes.
Rafa Carbera Bello of Spain shot 70 and was another shot back in a tie for sixth with Gregory Bourdy (68) of France, Bradley Dredge (72) of Wales, Romain Wattell (68) of France and Jose Campillo (68) of Spain.
Jamie Donaldson of Wales (even for the day after 15) and Jaco Van Zyl (1-under through 15) of South Africa also were in the tie for sixth when darkness came.