American Marty Jertson and Dane Morten Orum Madsen both held three-shot leads at the halfway stage as 288 players battled over four courses today for just 12 places in the Open Championship.
Jertson fired a six-under-par 66 at West Lancashire, where 2005 US Open champion Michael Campbell began with a 71, while Madsen returned his seven-under 65 at Southport and Ainsdale.
Three-time European Tour winner Nick Dougherty, who lost his card after making only one cut all last year, had a 70 there to keep his hopes alive of making it through to Royal Lytham.
Joint leaders on four under at Hillside were another Tour winner Warren Bennett and Dale Whitnell, while at St Annes Old, James Hepworth on six under was one ahead of Argentina's Rafa Echenique.
Former Ryder Cup star Barry Lane, now 52, and Bristol's Chris Wood - fifth in the 2008 Open as an amateur and third a year later at Turnberry - were in joint third place two behind Hepworth.