Woods went into day three trailing two shots from the lead and at the end of the round was again sharing second place, just one behind 26-year old rookie Canadian Corey Conners.
In just his fourth official start since spinal fusion surgery last April, the former world number one carded an assured four-under-par 67 in front of a huge and supportive gallery at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor.
While Woods has won 79 times, he hasn't been in the winners circle in almost five years-his last win was at the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
He will look to complete an extraordinary wire-to-wire win Sunday when he plays alongside 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose in the day's final pairing. "I think it's exciting to have him back for the casual golf fan, but now the true Tiger fans get excited".
"I putted really, really well on the back nine", Rose said.
"I was playing well all day".
"Very, very loud", Woods said.
Meanwhile, it's hard to believe how quickly Woods got his game back to a title-contending level.
"Tomorrow, there's a packed leaderboard", Woods said.
"The key to winning [on Sunday] is the guy that goes out there and respects this golf course, takes his chances when they come and commits to the shot".
Just over five months ago, Woods still didn't have the clearance to begin hitting full shots, much less playing without restrictions. "I did a lot of guessing - guessed pretty good, also got fooled a few times".
"I feel good. I feel like I was playing well at (the Honda Classic in late February)", he continued.
"I didn't know I had the sole lead", Woods said.
"I need to play a good, solid round, clean card again and we'll see what happens". It's great. They get a little carried away at times and you've got to calm 'em down.
These will be invaluable reps for Woods, who gets more comfortable with what his fused back will allow him to do every single round. And to have seen him under these circumstances, near the weekend lead, with major season approaching, was something approaching transcendent - even for those who saw it from up close.
While at Kent State, Conners listed Woods as one of the golfers he'd most like to play with in a foursome.