Holder Martin Kaymer moved five shots clear of the field after the third round on Saturday to close in on a third Abu Dhabi Championship title in four years.
The German fired a 66 to move to 18-under. He has dropped just one stroke over the 54-holes in his first event of the year and that was a bogey at his 12th hole in the first round.
Kaymer's Ryder Cup team mate Rory McIlroy is his nearest challenger after the Briton holed a 30-foot eagle putt at the last in a round of 65 for a 13-under par tally.
"To be leading by six would be better but five shots is fine," Kaymer joked with reporters.
"My goal tomorrow is to get further away, to make more birdies.
"It's going to be just a very fun round tomorrow. I know that Rory will play well. And I have to play well, too, to get away a little bit so I just really look forward to that challenge.
Kaymer said his fine form in Abu Dhabi had come as a surprise.
"I didn't practise a lot in the wintertime. I took a lot of time off and it's only been the last 10 days, I was getting into golf a little bit more.
"But I was not really expecting to play that well and that consistent again, especially not my putting. In general my short game has been very good."
In contrast to Kaymer's fortnight break from any practice over the Christmas and New Year period, McIlroy took six weeks off.
"If you saw me hitting balls in Dubai last week, you wouldn't have said I'd make the cut," said the Northern Irishman.
"I've made a lot of progress the last couple of weeks. I'm very, very happy with that, and there's still things to work on.
"But I've achieved the goals that I've set myself this week, and it's a bonus to be in this position.
Briton David Lynn is in third place at 12-under while South African Charl Schwartzel (71) is tied with Sweden's Alex Noren (67) at 10-under.
World number one Lee Westwood recorded a 73 and will start the last day 19 strokes adrift of Kaymer at one over.
American Phil Mickelson got off to a good start with a pair of opening birdies but spoiled his round with a 16th hole double bogey in finding a water hazard on route to a 72 to remain at three under.