Love, who was out for two months last year because of neck pain associated with a disk problem, birdied three of his last four holes to join Jonathan Kaye and Briny Baird, who turned in matching 67s, at eight-under-par 132.
'Now that I am healthy and feeling good, my confidence is starting to come back and I'm starting to see some good things,' Love said.
Scott Hoch, who won a head-to-head battle with Love at last year's Western Open, shot 66 to finish in second alongside Kaname Yokoo (68) at seven-under. First-round co-leader Hidemichi Tanaka carded an even-par 70 to slip into sixth place with Len Mattiace (64), David Peoples (65), Carl Paulson (66) and Peter Lonard (68).
After opening with a 68 on Thursday, Love started on the back nine in round two and posted his first birdie with an eight-foot putt at the 12th hole. He came up short of the driveable par-four 15th then overcame a poor chip by rolling in a 30-footer for birdie.
Love collected four more birdies on his way in, including three in a row starting at the sixth hole. He hit only half the greens in regulation in the second round but needed only 21 putts once he got there.
The 38-year-old Love has amassed 14 victories on the PGA Tour, but has notched only one in the last four years -- the 2001 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Although his 2002 started off shaky with five missed cuts in the first 10 starts with no top-15s, Love has played solidly since the Masters with seven straight cuts made and a pair of fifth-place finishes.
'I started off the year expecting big things because I was hurt last year, and maybe came out a little too anxious to try and make up for last year,' he admitted. 'Even though I did win (in 2001), I didn't win as much as I wanted to, so it took me a while to settle down and get into the rhythm of playing.'
Baird, another back-nine starter, sank 25-foot birdie putts at the fifth and seventh holes before moving to eight-under with a 10-footer at the ninth. Kaye's round featured two sets of back-to-back birdies and a bogey when he failed to get up and down from off the fourth green.
Both players are seeking their first win on the PGA Tour.
'Tomorrow is moving day, you kind of put up or shut up on Sunday,' said Baird. 'It's that simple. Golf is a very, very mental sport and there's a reason why it's so difficult to win out here, and it's not because of a lack of ability.'
Mattiace, who earned his first PGA Tour title in 220 career starts at the Nissan Open in February, holed two 40-foot birdie putts and two 25-footers en route to his 64.
'It was probably one of my best putting rounds in a long time,' he said.
Brett Quigley, who shared the lead after 18 holes with Tanaka, shot a one-over 71 to finish at five-under with Scott Verplank (70).
Defending champion Phil Mickelson, coming off a second-place showing in the U.S. Open, followed a 69 with a three-under 67. So did Sergio Garcia, who finished fourth last week at Bethpage State Park. They were among 11 players at four-under 136, four strokes off the pace.
Mexico's Esteban Toledo tied the back-nine tournament record with a six-under 29. He finished with a 64, jumping from 120th after one round to 30th at minus-two.
Notah Begay III, hampered by a bad back since winning here two years ago, suffered two bogeys and a double-bogey Friday but still made the cut -- his first of the season -- at one-under par.
Brett Wetterich produced the largest two-round swing on the PGA Tour this year. He following an opening-round 79 with a tournament-best 63, but missed the cut by one stroke at two-over 142.
Notable players who failed to qualify for the weekend included John Daly, two- time GHO champion Paul Azinger, and David Duval. Duval, ranked No. 7 in the world, missed his fourth cut in his last five starts.
Full field scores from the Canon Greater Hartford Open