Jon Mills, one of the three first-round leaders, managed a 2-under 70 in round two and is alone in second place at minus-7.
Steven Bowditch shot a 4-under 68 and is tied for third place with Ryan Armour, who posted a 2-under 70. The pair is knotted at 5-under-par 139.
This event features the top-61 players on the 2005 Nationwide Tour money list. Jason Gore, second on the money list, already made it to the PGA Tour via the 'battlefield promotion,' so the top-20 other players on the money list after the final round will head to the PGA Tour for the 2006 season.
Branshaw wasted little time in breaking into red figures on Friday. He rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt at the first, then drained an 8-footer for birdie at the second.
He dropped a shot at the par-5 fifth, but made up for the bogey with birdies at six and eight to make the turn at 33.
Branshaw birdied the 10th and ran home a 5-footer for birdie at No. 11. He holed a clutch 30-foot par save at the 12th, but bogeyed the 14th when he caught a flier lie from the rough.
That would be the last mistake for Branshaw on Friday. He hit his tee ball inside 2 feet at the par-3 16th to set up birdie, then two-putted for another birdie from 70 feet at the par-5 17th.
Branshaw took sole possession of the lead with a 35-foot birdie putt at the closing hole.
'Putts went in, that hasn't been happening,' said Branshaw, who won the 2002 Gila River Classic. 'Under par is good here. I've always liked my iron game. I wish it could be a little better, but it was fine today.'
Branshaw is 29th on the money list and needs a big finish this week if he is to earn his playing privileges on the PGA Tour next year. Even though Branshaw has the 36-hole lead with a tour card in site, he's cautious.
'We have 36 holes left,' said Branshaw. 'Stay calm, be patient and have fun. Take what the golf course gives you because it's a tough golf course. It's better than being eight shots back.'
Mills, who won this year's Canadian PGA Championship, was 2 under through his first five holes, but parred his next five. He birdied the par-4 11th when his wedge approach landed a foot from the hole.
Things went poorly from there for Mills. He was 8 under par for the championship, but found a fairway bunker off the tee at 12. Mills was forced to lay up short of the green and he failed to save par.
Mills missed the short grass with his drive at 15, then went left of the putting surface with his second. His pitch came up short on the fringe and his 20-footer for par moved right at the end. That bogey left him at 6 under, two behind Branshaw.
At the 457-yard, par-4 finishing hole, Mills hit a 9-iron to 7 feet. He sank that birdie try to get within one of Branshaw.
'Maybe I didn't hit it as well off the tee, but I didn't get in any real trouble,' said Mills, who is fourth on the money list and assured of his card next year. 'No complaints. I gave myself a chance.'
David Morland IV, one of the leaders from Thursday, shot a 1-over-par 73 and is tied for fifth place with Jim McGovern, who carded an even-par 72. The duo is knotted at 4-under-par 140.
Mathew Goggin (70), Bill Haas (71), Rick Price (73) and Cliff Kresge (73) share seventh place at minus-3.
Kevin Durkin, the third co-leader from round one, struggled to a 5-over-par 77 on Friday and is part of a group tied for 18th place at even-par 144.