Rory McIlroy extends his lead to four shots as he and Morten Ørum Madsen shoot 66.

On the third day of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic Rory McIlroy extended the gap at the top of the leaderboard from an overnight one shot to four shots. McIlory has four times previously been atop the leaderboard after 36 holes here – in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014 – but has only gone on to win once, in 2009

Now he looks set to add a second Dubai Desert Classic title to his collection courtesy of a round of 66 which at one stage looked likely to be even lower. McIlroy made five birdies in the first eight holes, but a only added one more over the next 10 holes, at the 17th. Those opening birdies had come by way of a 20-footer on the 1st, a five-footer on the 3rd, a 12-footer on the 5th, an eight-footer at 7 and another 12-footer on 8. His front nine 30 is his lowest ever at the Dubai Desert Classic.

McIroy is in such superb form it seems unlikely he will stumble, which is what will be required if he is to be overhauled tomorrow. He has not finished out the top two in his past half dozen European Tour events, but his last three have all ended with him as runner up. He has not won a tournament for 175 days.

Rory McIlroy finished 54 holes at 20-under, one off the 54-hole record set in 2013 by Stephen Gallacher. McIlroy would have equalled the record had he birdied the 18th. But he didn’t – unusually as he has birdied the 18th hole in 14 of his last 18 rounds before today.

Gallacher shot a third-round 70 to leave him at 13 under par and in a tie for fourth place, where he remains alongside Bernd Wiesberger who also shot 70. The four-way tie in fourth is completed by Danny Willett and Andy Sullivan. It is the 19th straight round that Gallacher has been in the top 20 on the leaderboard.

Between them and Rory McIlroy are Lee Westwood in 3rd, who carded 69 to take him to 14 under and Morten Ørum Madsen who matched McIlroy’s 66 as the low round of the day and stands at 16 under par. The Dane is there by dint of some superb work on the greens – he has made 77 putts over the first 54 holes in this year’s Dubai Desert Classic.

Seve Benson drove to within 5ft at the 344-yard 2nd, and made eagle. But his round fell away from then on, with only one birdie, and his 73 dropped him 13 places from his overnight third position.