Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell gave the chasing pack plenty of hope when the final round of the US Open got under way on Sunday.
Germany's Martin Kaymer held a five-shot lead after 54 holes at Pinehurst and the last man to lose such an advantage at this stage was Mike Brady in 1919.
But former Open champion Oosthuizen was three under par after 11 holes of his round and 2010 US Open winner McDowell two under after just three as the early starters found conditions easier than 24 hours earlier.
Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton were the only players to break par on Saturday, matching rounds of 67 lifting them into second place on three under, with Fowler set to partner Kaymer in the final pairing at 3:35pm local time.
Compton, who has undergone two heart transplants, was alongside Henrik Stenson in the penultimate group, the Swede knowing a victory would take him above Adam Scott to the top of the world rankings if the Australian finished outside the top four.
Scott was in a share of 16th place on three over par and made up a high-profile group with two-time major winner Rory McIlroy at 1:45pm.
Oosthuizen reached four under par for the day with a birdie on the 13th before a bogey on the last meant he had to settle for a three-under-par 67.
Playing partner Matt Fitzpatrick, the only amateur to make the cut in his last event before turning professional next week, returned a 69 and American Daniel Berger then birdied two of the last three holes to post a 66, the second lowest round of the week.
That also meant there had already been more under par scores from the first nine players than all 67 managed on Saturday, while McDowell was two under through 10 holes.