McDowell, who led at halfway and who took a three shot lead into the third round, maintained that advantage with a 69 for a 14 under par total of 202 although it was the fast finishing Harrington – the first round leader – who assumed the mantle of his closest challenger, the Ryder Cup player charging up the leaderboard with a 64 for 205.
Although pleased to still be the man to catch, McDowell admitted he was a little disappointed that his lead was not larger, considering he had played flawless golf for his first 15 holes before dropping his only shots of the day at the 16th – where he overshot the green – and the 17th – where he found the water.
“It wasn’t a particularly easy finish to the golf course today,” he said. “To throw in two bogeys at the end was disappointing but I was in control of my game all day long and a 69 is not all that bad.
“It is going to be good to play with him (Padraig) tomorrow and watch exactly what he is up to but if I can play the way I have been playing, then he is going to have to go low to beat me.”
In last year’s first round at Gut Lärchenhof Fredrik Jacobson carded a 60, although it was commonly believed that with the course having been toughened up considerably, scores like that would not happen this year.
It appeared no-one had told Harrington however as the Irishman produced golf on the outward half which would have thrilled his watching Ryder Cup Captain Bernhard Langer, as four birdies and an eagle saw him to the turn in 30.
He eased up slightly on the back nine but still did not yield any shots to the Cologne course, his only departures from par coming with birdies at the 15th and 17th from ten and 12 feet respectively.
“I played well and missed a few putts yesterday and today I did the opposite, I holed those putts and things were going well. I played quite nicely and I don’t think there was any hole out there that I struggled on, I hit most of the greens and it was a good solid round of golf with a few spectacular bits thrown in there.
“Obviously I am back in contention again but Graeme is a great front runner, every time he is up there he keeps going and today was superb play by him, but now I will focus on tomorrow.”
Nearest challenger to the leading duo is Frenchman Raphaël Jacquelin who carded a third round 70 for a ten under par total of 206 to give himself an excellent chance of his first European Tour win, an excellent late present for himself and his new wife Fanny, who married last weekend.
“Tomorrow my focus will be on driving the ball straight and keeping it on the fairways,” said the Frenchman. “The course plays very tough with the narrow fairways and the fast greens, therefore it is important not to be in the rough to give yourself a chance with your second shot.”
In fourth place is Harrington’s Ryder Cup colleague Paul Casey who like the Irishman had a blistering spell in his round – covering the six holes from the tenth to the 15th in seven under par – but like McDowell he suffered a poor finish, double bogeying the last for the second time in the week after finding the water hazard.
It left the Englishman a trifle annoyed but his 67 for a nine under par total of 207 still left him very much in the shake up for the final round.
“I have been struggling off the tee a little all week and that caught up with me at the last which was obviously disappointing,” he said. “I need to drive the ball better tomorrow if I am to have a chance, because I know I can make the putts on the greens. The game is in good shape but I will just have to see whether it clicks tomorrow or not. But I feel I can go low even in blustery conditions.”
Hopes of a first German victory since Langer himself in 2001 rest on the shoulders of Alex Cejka who finished in a tie for fifth place on eight under par 208 with Australian left-hander Nick O’Hern.