Airil-Rizman Zahari finished alone in fourth place at 5-under-par 67. Paul McGinley was one shot further back at 4-under-par 68 along with Stephen Dodd, Martin Erlandsson, Klas Eriksson, Mikko Ilonen, Robert Karlsson, Anthony Kang, Chawalit Plaphol and Jose Manuel Lara.
Maritz played the back nine first at Saujana Golf Club and opened with a bogey at the par-4 11th. He responded with a birdie at the following hole, however, and made it two straight with a birdie at the 13th.
The towering South African picked up a pair of birdies from the 17th and added consecutive birdies starting at the second to move to 5 under.
Maritz then birdied the sixth but faltered with a bogey at the eighth. At the par-4 ninth, Maritz played his approach to 20 feet and drained the putt for his eighth birdie of the day.
'I have been waiting for something to happen,' said Maritz. 'I feel I am close to achieving some of my goals. I haven't had the greatest of starts this year but finished 21st last week in Australia, which was encouraging. I brought that form here this week.'
Elson also started on the back nine and jumped out of the gate with birdies on each of his first two holes. The Englishman then tallied a birdie at the 13th and reached minus-4 with a birdie at the first.
He struggled to a bogey at the fifth but ran off three consecutive birdies from the seventh to close his round and join Maritz in the lead.
'Having played here before I knew the course and that certainly helped,' said Elson. 'I putted nicely today, hit the ball well off the tee and my irons were fairly accurate. I only hit one bad shot on the par-3 fifth and dropped one. But reading the grain is key. The greens are very grainy.'
Price collected four birdies and a bogey over his first nine holes to make the turn at 3 under.
The Australian matched his front side with four birdies and a bogey on the inward half to complete the logjam in first place.
Padraig Harrington, who captured the season-opening Omega Hong Kong Open, had five birdies and two bogeys on Thursday for a round of 69.
Harrington was joined by Costantino Rocca, Robert-Jan Derksen, Marcus Fraser, James Hepworth, Brad Kennedy, David Howell, Thomas Levet, Gerry Norquist, Sung-Man Lee and amateur Shukree Othman in a tie for 15th.
Colin Montgomerie had a dismal finish en route to a round of 73. The Scot, who started on the 10th tee, collected three bogeys and a double bogey over his last five holes to finish seven shots off the pace.