On a bizarre day for the European Tour, in which a shotgun start was implemented due to the threat of bad weather, Sullivan defied the cool and blustery conditions at the Oceanico Victoria Clube de Golfe to fire a four-under 67 – a score bettered by only Chris Wood and Lucas Bjerregaard.
Sullivan, bidding to become the first three-time winner on Tour this season, had the advantage of starting at the first and he birdied three of the first five holes before dropping only his second shot of the tournament at the tough 510-yard par-four seventh.
Sullivan’s lead could have been more substantial had playing-partner Eduardo De La Riva not birdied the final three holes to card a 68 that lifted him into outright second on 13 under par.
Eduardo De La Riva birdied the last three holes Czech Masters and KLM Open champion Pieters began the round just three behind Sullivan, but a double-bogey at the 10th and a bogey at 14 dropped him to eight under, although he did birdie two of the last four holes to salvage a 72.
Meanwhile, the European Tour confirmed that further expected bad weather has forced organisers to install another shotgun start for the final round on Sunday.
And with a similar forecast set for Sunday, the players will now start at the same time, and it will just the third shotgun start in European Tour history.