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Lee Westwood was up from 29th to ninth with a superb start to his third round at the US Open in sunny San Francisco on Saturday.
Westwood sank a seven-foot putt on the 499-yard par-four fifth and then birdied again at the driveable 268-yard seventh.
The world number three stood three over par and was only four behind overnight leaders Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and David Toms, who had yet to tee off.
With Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy both missing the cut, Westwood had the chance to go back to the top of the rankings, but that would hardly matter to him on this occasion - it was all about trying to land his first major.
The 38-year-old from Worksop, whose seven top-three finishes are the joint most of anybody without a major title in golf history, had begun the week with a double bogey, but had dug in superbly on the fiendishly difficult Olympic Club where he finished seventh back in 1998.
Ireland's Padraig Harrington, with three majors to his name, parred the first six holes - regarded as the toughest stretch - to remain four over and still in contention, while Justin Rose was one further back after an opening bogey.
On his 42nd birthday, Phil Mickelson was not able to make the move he hoped for.
The five-time runner-up had survived the halfway cut with only one shot to spare at seven over and remained on the same mark with two to play, although that was good enough to lift him from 51st to 34th.
Among the players he overtook were England's Ian Poulter and Scot Marc Warren.
Poulter was three over for his first seven holes, missing the green to the left on the second, coming up short of the green at the 256-yard par-three next and then dropping a further stroke at the sixth.
Warren, making his major debut, started and finished the outward half with double bogeys and with seven to play was alongside Poulter on eight over.
European Tour rookie Matthew Baldwin, who is also making his first appearance at a major after coming through qualifying at Walton Heath two weeks ago, shot 73 for 11 over.
Fellow Englishman Simon Dyson, out of action for the past month with a hip injury that he feared would prevent him making the trip, had his third successive 74 for 12 over.
Westwood bogeyed the short eighth and slipped to 14th alongside Harrington, who parred the first seven, while Mickelson's closing bogey for a 71 put him eight over - surely too far back to have any hope on the final day of his 22nd attempt to win his national championship.
There was a dream start for first-round leader Michael Thompson. He drove into the rough and just chopped out, but then sank his 170-yard third for a birdie that made him level par and only one behind.
Northern Ireland's 2010 winner Graeme McDowell remained two behind with a solid opening four.
Woods, Furyk and Toms all bogeyed the 520-yard first - the third longest par four in US Open history - and when Westwood came back from another bogey at the ninth with back-to-back birdies he was joint eighth and only three behind at three over.
First he holed from 12 feet and then he hit his approach from the right-hand rough to five feet.
Woods paid the penalty for pulling his three-wood opening shot into the edge of the rough, while Toms and Furyk both missed the green off good drives and could not get up and down.
McDowell parred the second and so was only one back, while Thompson would have been back in a share of top spot but for finding sand at the third and bogeying.
Before teeing off McDowell said: "At the US Open 'Moving Day' just means don't move back. I'd like to fast-forward and still be two behind going into the final round."
So far things were going better than that for the 32-year-old.