It was Hideki Matsuyama who made the biggest moves, shooting a superb 65 and rising to the top of the leaderboard on 11-under, four shots clear of Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris and Marc Leishman.
In a bogey-free round that included five birdies and an eagle, Matsuyama went eagle-birdie-birdie between the 15th and 17th to stretch his lead.
Aiming to become the first Japanese man to win a major, Matsuyama was composed in all phases of his game. But it was his proficiency with his irons that gave him an edge as he carefully dissected the course.
“I did play well today,” he told reporters. “My game plan was carried out, and hopefully tomorrow I can continue my good form.”
After the interval due to the inclement weather, the greens proved to be much slower and allowed players to hole out more consistently.
Matsuyama, whose best finish at the Masters came in 2015 when he placed fifth, took advantage and performed with remarkable consistently.
The world No. 25 barely had any stray shots and holed a vital eagle putt on the 15th hole to grab the lead ahead of Rose, twice a runner-up at Augusta.
England’s Rose, who had led throughout the weekend before being topped by Matsuyama, looked steady and assured as other players made their pushes to join him at the top.
He opened Saturday with two birdies, but his positive start was soon canceled out by bogeys on the fourth and fifth.
A birdie on the 12th and bogey on the 16th saw him end the day as he started on 7-under, although this time he had plenty of company around him on the leaderboard.
Masters debutant Zalatoris continued to impress despite his lack of experience playing at Augusta National, and the 24-year-old American hit four birdies to keep up hopes of an unlikely victory.
Also in the hunt are Australia’s Leishman, who carded 70 on the third day, and USA’s Shauffele, who closed with a 68 after an eagle on the 15th.
2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth, coming off the back of his first PGA Tour victory since 2017 last week, once again showed glimpses of returning to his best, hitting some outrageous chips and glorious putts to move into contention.
After a double bogey on the seventh, the three-time major winner hit a high chip on the eighth hole from the trees to land close to the pin and chipped in on the 10th to bring him back into contention.