Masters champion Sergio Garcia continued his remarkable turnaround in fortunes to climb into contention for a second Players Championship title and third win of the season.
Making his first start since claiming a maiden major title at Augusta National, Garcia had been four over par for his first six holes at Sawgrass after four-putting the fifth, the same hole he six-putted in the third round last year.
The 37-year-old was still four over with three holes to play on Thursday, but he followed a birdie on the 16th by recording a hole-in-one on the famous 'island green' 17th to salvage an opening 73.
A second round of 71 still left Garcia nine shots off the halfway lead and seemingly not in the frame to join Tiger Woods as the only players to win the Masters and Players Championship in the same year.
However, with blustery winds making scoring difficult on Saturday, the 2008 champion surged up the leaderboard with a third round of 67 to lie two shots off the clubhouse lead held by Korea's Si Woo Kim.
"It was very windy - not very consistent with the wind either," Garcia told Sky Sports after a round containing six birdies, three bogeys and an eagle on the 16th.
"It was gusting quite a bit so it was difficult to pick the clubs but I managed to play very nicely, hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens for the conditions and made some really good putts.
"Hopefully the guys in the lead don't finish more than they did yesterday, somewhere around nine under would be nice so we're three or four shots behind and we'll need a good round, but we'll have a chance.
"It was important to make the cut this week after all the highs from the Masters and how overwhelming everything was at the beginning of the week - I felt like I was playing with a little bit of the handbrake on.
"Today I was able to free up a little bit and hit some really good shots so hopefully I will be able to do more of the same tomorrow."
As the leaders approached the end of their rounds, Americans JB Holmes and Kyle Stanley shared the lead on eight under par, a shot ahead of Kim and former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
England's Ian Poulter was a shot further back as he looked to capitalise on retaining his PGA Tour card after fellow professional Brian Gay alerted officials to a discrepancy in the points structure used for players competing on major medical extensions.
After playing just 13 tournaments last year due to a foot injury, Poulter had 10 events this season to earn 218 FedEx Cup points or 347,634 US dollars (£269,755) to remain fully exempt.
He came up short in both categories with 155 FedEx Cup points and 317,010 dollars (£245,991), but Gay - who was also playing on a medical exemption after back problems - came to the rescue by discovering a difference between the way points were allotted this season compared to a year ago.
Further down the leaderboard, Rory McIlroy was still struggling to rediscover his top form in his first event since the Masters, after which he got married and signed a multi-million pound equipment deal with TaylorMade.
McIlroy, who will have an MRI scan on Monday after suffering a recurrence of the back problem which ruled him out for seven weeks earlier this season, carded four birdies and three bogeys in a 71 to finish one under par, with world number one Dustin Johnson two over after a 74 which included five dropped shots in the last six holes.