Howell shot a 6-under 66 Saturday to take the lead after three rounds of the BMW International Open. The defending champion, he is looking to become the first ever back-to-back winner at this event.
With a win Sunday, Howell would also be closer to something else no one has ever accomplished: a wire-to-wire Order of Merit championship.
Howell took the Order of Merit lead with a win at the season-opening HSBC Champions Tournament last November, then bolstered it with a win at the BMW Championship in May.
But he hasn't finished better than a tie for 16th in since then.
With a good round on Sunday -- '66 is probably what I need again to win this thing,' the Englishman said -- Howell could become the second three-time winner on the European Tour this season.
'I haven't played great for a while, so to be playing nice and making lots of birdies is a lot of fun again,' said Howell, who stands at 14-under-par 202.
Howell led by three shots after 17 holes, then hooked his drive into a pond on the 18th. He nearly saved par anyway, leaving a putt on the lip of the cup.
'I missed it right the first two days, and sure enough I hit a hook (today) and it was always going to go in the water,' Howell said of his final drive.
'It was a disappointing way to finish. I was looking at a 64...but 66 is a good score anyway.'
Padraig Harrington made his 64 with a bogey-free round and joined 1999 champion Colin Montgomerie and second-round leader Martin Erlandsson in second place at 12-under 204.
Montgomerie had a 66 in the third round and Erlandsson dropped back with a 69.
Normally, Howell wouldn't prefer to have players like Montgomerie and Harrington in the chase pack, but this week is a different story.
With the Ryder Cup just three weeks away, Montgomerie leads the European Points list and Harrington is battling for a spot.
'If a few of the guys can boost their confidence a little with the Ryder Cup just a few weeks away, that will be great for the European team, obviously,' Howell said.
Simon Khan and Henrik Stenson shot matching 66s at Golfclub Munchen Nord-Eichenried to share fifth place at 11-under 205.
Certainly not out of the picture is world No. 6 Retief Goosen, who shot a 67 on Saturday to get to 10 under and within four strokes. He was joined in a tie for seventh place by five others.