Poulter started the third round with a six-shot lead, but after a 3-over 75, he trails unknown Aussie Wade Ormsby by a stroke.
Rain halted play on Friday, and Poulter slept on a four-shot lead with four holes to finish on Saturday morning. He added a birdie on the par-4 15th before signing for a 6-under 66 and a comfy six-shot lead.
But Poulter struggled from the start in the third round. He bogeyed the par-5 first hole and made the turn in 1-over 35, while all the other contenders were posting low numbers on the soggy Montgomerie Maxx Royal course. Poulter added another bogey on the par-5 11th, and he dropped two shots behind Ormsby with a double bogey at the par-4 15th. A birdie on the par-4 17th pulled Poulter within one of the lead heading into the final round.
The difference between opening rounds of 64-66 and Saturday's 75? Poulter said he simply wasn't as aggressive in the third round.
"I wasn't ruthless enough today," he said after going to the driving range to clear his head. Poulter said he "got it back" on the range and is looking forward to trying to win his first event since the 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions.
"If I play like I did the first couple of days, I'll have a chance tomorrow," he said.
At least he didn't lose his sense of humor. Poulter posted this tweet after his round:
Haha that wasn't in the script, so I guess I will have to make it up from here in. Played really poorly today. Bad error on 15. Brain fart.— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) November 15, 2014
One of the big movers on Saturday was none other than 48-year-old John Daly. Playing on a sponsor's invite, he recorded six birdies and a bogey for a 5-under 67, and he's just four strokes back along with six other players including Peter Uihlein and Shane Lowry. Daly only hit three fairways, but he was able to hit 13 greens and take only 26 putts.
With only three top-10 finishes this year and ranked 264th in the world, the 34-year-old Ormsby is playing some good golf at the right time. Coming off a T-9 finish in Perth, Ormsby currently sits 78th in the Race to Dubai standings. The top 60 qualify for next week's season finale at the DP World Tour Championship. To get there, he'll have a big challenge on Sunday playing with the lead and grouped with Poulter and Westwood.