Fabrizio Zanotti shot 3-under-par 68 on Friday and grabbed a 1-stroke lead through two rounds of the Open de France.
Zanotti, a three-time runner-up on the European Tour, completed 36 holes at Le Golf National at 6-under-par 136, one stroke ahead of Soren Kjeldsen (68), Thomas Bjorn (69) and Richard Sterne (69).
Graeme McDowell, who had missed the cut in five of his previous six stroke play events before this tournament, carded his second straight 69 and moved into a tie for fifth place at 5-under. The former U.S. Open winner stands alongside Simon Dyson (68), Stephen Gallacher (70) and Graeme Storm (68).
"It's been a rough couple of months for me," said McDowell, who has one win apiece on the European Tour and PGA Tour this season. "I've not been playing the kind of golf I'd like to and the key to this week was to come and get myself in the mix for the weekend and get some of the juices flowing again.
"I'm excited for the weekend and to make a cut really. It feels like a step in the right direction."
Eduardo De la Riva (67), Richard Green (70) and Scott Jamieson (70) are tied for ninth at minus-3.
Overnight leader Anders Hansen, who has been battling a nagging hand injury which will require surgery, plummeted down the leaderboard into a share of 44th at 2-over courtesy of a second-round 78. The three-time European Tour winner is joined there by Luke Donald and Ian Poulter.
Defending champion Marcel Siem finished 36 holes at 6-over-par 148 and missed the cut.
A one-hour delay due to fog did little to slow Bjorn, who opened from the 10th tee with three birdies in his first five holes to overtake Hansen and move two clear of the field in the early going. That run got Bjorn to 6-under for the tournament, but he played the remainder of his second round at 1-over, countering bogeys at Nos. 18, 8 and 9 with birdies at the third and fifth to grab a share of the clubhouse lead at 5-under.
Sterne was also was also in the clubhouse at 5-under under thanks to three birdies in his final four holes, but Zanotti was poised to make a move.
The 30-year-old from Paraguay began on No. 1 and birdied two of his first three holes to catch the clubhouse leaders. He added another gain at the ninth to make the turn in sole possession of the lead at 6-under.
After a pair of pars, Zanotti dropped back to the pack with a bogey at the par-4 12th, but he rebounded with a birdie at No. 14 to move back to minus-6. He parred out to stay on top.
NOTES: Zanotti is a one-time winner on the Challenge Tour ... His last runner- up finish came at the Irish Open in 2012 ... American Matt Kuchar finished 36 holes on the cut line at 3-over-par 145 ... The site of this week's tournament, Le Golf National, will be the host for the 2018 Ryder Cup.