Miguel Angel Jimenez set the early clubhouse target with a superb 66 in the third round of the 78th Masters at Augusta National on Saturday.
Jimenez made the halfway cut with just a shot to spare on three over par, but surged through the field with seven birdies and just one bogey to return the lowest score of the week and finish three under.
That was good enough to give the 50-year-old a share of third place when he signed his card, with overnight leader Bubba Watson just resuming his bid for a second green jacket in three years at seven under.
Jimenez is already the oldest winner in European Tour history, extending his own record by successfully defending his Hong Kong Open title in December, just weeks before turning 50 on January 5.
And the veteran Spaniard would become the oldest winner in major history if he could claim a green jacket on Sunday, eclipsing the record of Julius Boros, who was 48 years, four months and 18 days old when he won the 1968 US PGA Championship.
Birdies at the third and fifth took Jimenez to the turn in 34 and the former Ryder Cup player also birdied the 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th and 16th, with a bogey on the 12th his only blemish.
American Gary Woodland had earlier threatened an even more spectacular score, four birdies and an eagle seeing him equal the lowest front nine in Masters history of 30 shots, previously achieved by Johnny Miller, KJ Choi, Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson.
When he also holed from two feet for birdie at the 10th the course record of 63 - held by Norman and Nick Price - or even the first sub-63 round in major championship history was in his sights, only for the 29-year-old to bogey the 11th and double-bogey the 12th.
Although he bounced back with a birdie on the 13th, Woodland dropped shots at the 14th and 18th to eventually card a 69.
Jimenez, who held the outright lead on Thursday before a bogey on the 11th and double-bogey on the 12th, is eligible for the Seniors Tour but has his heart set on qualifying for a fifth Ryder Cup in September; he would be Europe's oldest ever player of course.
"I feel great," Jimenez said. "I feel fantastic. I like the feeling of the knot in my stomach. I feel that thing since Monday when I got here, it doesn't disappear. I love that kind of pressure. I love that thing. That's why I'm still competing.
"Experience is always very important. Not about hitting the shot or whatever, it's just about passion and staying calm. This golf course is demanding. You need to be very strong mentally."
Watson gave the likes of Jimenez hope with a bogey on the first after firing his approach over the green, but then hit a superb approach to four feet on the par-five second and holed for an eagle three.