It was Hideki Matsuyama who made the biggest hits, shooting a stunning 65 and climbing to the top of the standings on 11 under, four strokes ahead of Justin Rose, Xander Sc Chaudele, Will Zalatoris and Marc Leishman.
In a bogey-less round that included five birdies and an eagle, Matsuyama went eagle-birdie-birdie between the 15th and 17th to stretch his lead.
Wanting to become the first Japanese to win a major, Matsuyama was made up in every phase of his game. But it was his mastery of his irons that gave him an advantage as he carefully dissected the course.
“I played well today,” he told reporters. “My game plan has been realized and I hope that tomorrow I can continue my good form.”
After the weather interval, the greens turned out to be much slower and allowed players to retire more regularly.
Matsuyama, whose best Masters result came in 2015 when he placed fifth, took advantage and performed with remarkable consistency.
The world No.25 barely had any lost shots and pierced a vital eagle putt on the 15th hole to take the lead in front of Rose, twice second to Augusta.
England Rose, who had led through the weekend before being dominated by Matsuyama, looked stable and confident as other players scrambled to join him at the top.
He started on Saturday with two birdies, but his positive start was quickly canceled out by bogeys in the fourth and fifth.
A birdie on the 12th and a bogey on the 16th saw him end the day as he started at 7 under, although this time he had plenty of company around him in the standings.
Masters debutant Zalatoris continued to impress despite his inexperience at Augusta National, and the 24-year-old American hit four birdies to keep hope for an unlikely victory.
Australian Leishman, who got 70 on day three, and American Shauffele, who closed with a 68 after an eagle on the 15th, are also in the race.
2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth, after securing his first PGA Tour victory since 2017 last week, once again showed he is back to his best, hitting outrageous chips and glorious putts for enter into contention.
After a double bogey in the seventh, the three-time major winner hit a high chip on the eighth tree hole to land near the pin and helped in the 10th to put it back in the game.
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