The start of the second round was delayed by one hour because of wet course conditions and was eventually suspended due to darkness with 15 players remaining on the course.
The second round will resume Saturday at 7:00 a.m. local time with the third round commencing at 8:30 a.m.
Nick Dougherty, who shared the first-round lead with Paul Casey, Luke Donald and Andrew McLardy, posted a 3-under 69 to slip into second place at 8-under-par 136.
Robert Karlsson (68) and defending champion Angel Cabrera (69) share third place at minus-7. Simon Khan is one stroke further back at 6-under-par 138 after a 4-under 68 in round two.
Howell dipped to minus-3 as he started his round with a bogey on No. 3 at Wentworth Club's West Course. He bounced right back with a birdie on the par-5 fourth and another at the fifth.
The Englishman parred his next three holes before sinking a birdie on the par-4 ninth to make the turn at 6 under, two strokes behind Dougherty.
Howell, who collected his third tour win in November at the HSBC Champions Tournament, then birdied the par-3 10th for the second straight day. He came back with a birdie at the 12th to join Dougherty atop the leaderboard.
The 30-year-old grabbed the lead with a birdie on No. 15. Howell birdied No. 17 for the second round in a row to move to minus-10. He also birdied the last to extend his cushion to three strokes.
'I guess that's one of the best rounds I've played,' Howell admitted. 'Although I didn't expect to be sitting here at 11 under par. There is a long way to go, but hopefully I can give myself a chance over the weekend.'
Dougherty parred five straight to get his round going, but then faltered to a bogey on the sixth, his second bogey on that hole in two days.
The 24-year-old got that stroke back with a birdie on eight, but he tripped to a bogey on the ninth. Dougherty's four back-nine birdies all came on holes he birdied in the opening round.
The 2005 Caltex Masters winner birdied the par-5 12th and par-3 14th to move to 6 under. Dougherty birdied the back-to-back par-5s, 17 and 18, to take second place at minus-8.
'I've backed up a good start with another good round,' stated Dougherty. 'I am pleased because it's tricky out there. Winning this would be the biggest thing I've ever achieved and would pretty much put me on the Ryder Cup team.'
Donald and Casey each carded rounds of even-par 72 to drop into a share of sixth place. They were joined at 5-under-par 139 by Francois Delamontagne, who shot 70 on Friday.
Miguel Angel Jimenez shares ninth place with four other players at minus-4. He stands alongside Niclas Fasth, Raphael Jacquelin and Peter Lawrie. Garry Houston also is minus-4 and has completed 14 holes of his second round.
McLardy struggled to a 2-over 74 to slide into a tie for 14th at 3-under-par 141.
The cut is projected to be 2-over-par 146. Among those likely to miss out on the final two rounds are Darren Clarke (147), Thomas Bjorn (148) and Lee Westwood (149).