Rose had a 4-under 68 in the third round and is 13-under-par 203, two shots ahead of Greg Chalmers, Raphael Jacquelin and surprising amateur Aaron Pike, who led after the first two rounds.
Pike was done in by a double-bogey at No. 1 and two subsequent bogeys on the remaining holes at Huntingdale Golf Club. He managed an even-par 72 to share second place with Chalmers (68) and Jacquelin (67) at 11-under 205.
Paul Casey, a three-time winner last season, shot a 67 and is tied for fifth place with Peter Lonard (69) and Carl Suneson (69) at 8-under 208. Eight players are knotted one shot further back at 209.
Rose, 26, started slowly with four straight pars and a bogey at the fifth. But he made back-to-back birdies at the sixth and seventh and was 10 under around the turn.
Birdies at the 10th and 12th were followed by an eagle at the par-5 14th, where Rose knocked a 2-iron within 2 feet and tapped in to lead comfortably at 14 under.
'That shot on the 14th really was my shot of the day, my shot of the week, maybe even my shot of the year,' said Rose, who is playing on a sponsor's exemption.
'I usually have a 5-wood, but this week went for the 2-iron and I hit a raking draw and it came off perfectly.'
Rose gave one shot back with a bogey at the 17th -- his fifth bogey of the week on Huntingdale's final three holes -- but it mattered little.
He is sitting in good position for his first title since 2002, when he claimed two European Tour wins. They remain the only two victories of his career.
'There are a lot of hungry guys behind me on 11 under and I thought at the start of this week that 15 under would have a chance of winning,' said Rose, who burst onto the international scene at the 1998 British Open.
'There are still plenty of guys who can do that, so I'll need to play well still.'
Rose was paired with the amateur Pike, who was a surprising leader through the first two rounds. Pike began his Saturday with an errant drive and a double-bogey at the first hole, then compounded his trouble with a bogey at the third.
But one day after he finished bogey-bogey Pike ended his third round with consecutive birdies, impressing Rose.
'He putted confidently today and it could have been a couple better,' said Rose, 'but it was a great way for him to finish.'
Sharing eighth place at 7 under are Aaron Baddeley, Adam Bland, Tony Carolan, Marcus Fraser, Richard Green, Simon Khan, Craig Parry and Peter Senior.