Graeme McDowell managed just a 1-under 70 on Saturday, but it was good enough to move him into a share of the lead at the Open de France.
McDowell, who won the European Tour's Volvo World Match Play Championship earlier this season to go along with a victory at the PGA Tour's RBC Heritage, was joined at 5-under-par 208 by Richard Sterne.
"I hope I have the opportunity," McDowell said about possibly winning his third tournament in 2013. "This course demands fairways and greens; most courses do but this one even more so. Shots off line here get punished heavily. The greens are very firm. I described it earlier this week as a Scottish or Irish links meets the Players Championship at Sawgrass."
Sterne shot an even-par 71 during his third round at Le Golf National to meet McDowell at the top of the leaderboard. The South African is also seeking his second win on the European Tour this year after capturing the title at the Joburg Open in February.
Bernd Wiesberger (68), David Howell (69) and Richard Green (70) share third at 4-under, while Simon Dyson (72) and Soren Kjeldsen (73) are tied for sixth at minus-3.
Second-round leader Fabrizio Zanotti struggled to a 7-over 78 on Saturday to fall into a tie for 27th place at 1-over 214.
The top of the leaderboard was fluid throughout the day, starting when Sterne birdied the first to meet overnight leader Zanotti at 6-under.
Thomas Bjorn made it a three-way tie for the lead when he also opened his round with a birdie at the first, but he tripped to a double bogey at the second to fall off the pace.
Sterne and Zanotti both moved to 7-under with birdies at the third before Sterne stumbled to a bogey at the fourth that he followed with a double bogey at the fifth to drop to minus-4.
Zanotti also could not hang on to the lead as he triple bogeyed the fourth after hitting his second shot out of bounds to meet Sterne at 4-under, handing the lead to Bjorn, who had birdied the third and fourth to get to 6-under.
Zanotti bounced back with a 40-foot birdie putt at the fifth to pull back within a stroke of the lead, but then triple bogeyed the seventh to fall behind for good.
Bjorn just missed a hole-in-one at the eighth after his ball caromed off a sprinkler head and bounced off the flag stick. He converted his birdie effort to move to 7-under and open up a 2-stroke lead over McDowell.
McDowell had played his first 10 holes at 1-under by recording a birdie at the third to go along with nine pars before also hitting the flag stick and just missing an ace at the 11th. His birdie putt pulled him within one of Bjorn.
Bjorn lost his outright lead with a 3-putt bogey at the 11th, and after McDowell tripped to a bogey at the 17th to fall to minus-5 and again hand the top spot to Bjorn, the Dane followed suit by failing to get up and down for par at the 15th to meet McDowell there.
Bjorn then dunked his tee shot at the par-3 16th into the water en route to a double bogey to fall to 3-under, while McDowell closed with a par to grab the clubhouse lead.
Sterne, meanwhile, had recovered from his double bogey at the fifth with four straight pars and after opening his inward nine with a bogey at the 10th, he poured in gains at the 14th and 17th to reach 5-under and grab a share of the lead.
"I'm very pleased with 71 in the end. This course can bite you in a lot of places and the finish here is probably the toughest on the tour," said Sterne. "There are a lot of guys bunched up. Someone can come from further back, but hopefully I get off to a good start again tomorrow and keep it going."
NOTES: McDowell had missed the cut in five of his previous six stroke play events before this tournament ... McDowell is trying for his ninth career win on the European Tour ... Sterne is seeking his seventh career European TYour win ... Le Golf National will be the host for the 2018 Ryder Cup.