Pate joined the Champions Tour this year and will be in search of win No. 1 on the elder circuit. His last PGA Tour victory came at the 1982 Players Championship as the 1976 U.S. Open champion has struggled with injuries in past years.
'This is exciting for me,' said Pate, whose last lead with one round left in a tournament came at the 1981 Pensacola Open, an event he won. 'The hardest thing for me is to be patient. You have to stay balanced and calm.'
Bobby Wadkins, who shared the overnight lead with Pate and Peter Jacobsen, shot a 2-under 68 and is alone in second place at minus-8. Tom Jenkins (66) and Mike Hill (67) are tied for third place at 7-under-par 133.
Pate ran home a 6-foot par save at the first hole but found himself looking up at Wadkins through most of the round. Pate collected a 5-foot birdie putt at the fifth and added an 18-footer for birdie at the very next hole.
Pate dropped a shot at the 10th when he drove into the left rough and Wadkins made a 12-foot birdie putt at the 11th to go one ahead. Pate holed a gutsy 5-foot par save at No. 12 and both players birdied the par-3 16th.
At the par-5 17th, Pate ran home a 4-foot birdie putt to tie Wadkins in first. Wadkins hit a terrible drive into the left rough at No. 18 and missed the green with a 7-iron. He double bogeyed the hole to fall two back of Pate.
'After that last hole, I need something,' said Wadkins, who has one win on the elder circuit. 'It will be fun tomorrow. It'll be a long day. The player that drives it the best will probably win the tournament.'
For Pate, being in this position after four shoulder operations is amazing enough.
'I have been blessed to be able to do this again,' said Pate, who has finished second and eighth in his last two starts. 'My love is hitting a golf ball. I wasn't sure a year ago if I would play. I feel like if I drive the ball well tomorrow, I feel like I can score.'
Defending champion Jim Thorpe is in the hunt again this year. He shot a 1-under 69 and is tied for fifth with Wayne Levi, who carded his second 67 in as many days. The duo is knotted at 6-under-par 134.
Andy Bean (65), Hale Irwin (66) and Bobby Lincoln (67) share seventh at minus- 5.
Jacobsen struggled on Saturday. This is his first tournament since hip surgery in April and he limped more in the second round. He shot a 4-over 74 and is part of a group tied for 18th at 2-under-par 138.