Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez recovered from a mid-round slump to keep himself in Open contention with a last-hole birdie and a round of 70 at Hoylake.
Jimenez led by four shots after five holes of his second round
He was joined on seven under, five off Tiger Woods' lead, by Finland's Mikko Ilonen, whose five birdies sealed a 69.
After going out in 32, Sergio Garcia made a mess of the back nine to finish with 71 for five under overall.
Jose Maria Olazabal shot a 68 to move up to three under but Seve Ballesteros finished on seven over after a 77.
Jimenez admitted that his birdie at the last was crucial in keeping him in the hunt for the Championship.
"That was a big putt and it was nice to finish like that," said the 42-year-old.
"I started well with nice putts at the first and fourth and the eagle at five.
The wind picked up and the course is getting a lot firmer so it was a lot tougher than this morning
"But I dropped off in the middle of the round - but I don't think it was because I saw I was four strokes ahead, these things happen in big tournaments, it changes so fast.
"But I held it together and that good finish at 18 keeps me in it."
Garcia said the course was tougher to play later in the day than it had been when Woods was blitzing the course early on.
He told BBC Sport: "I only missed a few fairways but the wind picked up and the course is getting a lot firmer so it was a lot tougher.
"I had a great start with three birdies through seven and a chance at the ninth but the 10th hole stopped my progress.
"I hit a couple of bad shots on 13 and 15 but all you can do is try your hardest."
Another Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano handed in a 69 and is five under for the tournament.
Sweden's Carl Pettersson, who has his eyes on a Ryder Cup place, carded a 72 and is four under overall.
And Denmark's Thomas Bjorn followed up his first-round 72 with a 71 and is one under.