Kisner traded four birdies against two bogeys for a three-day total of 16-under-par 200 but has compatriot Dustin Johnson, China’s Li Hao-tong and Scotland’s Russell Knox all piling the pressure at 15-under.
Knox will return to finish his round on Sunday morning as he still has one hole left to play after darkness cut short his third round at the Sheshan International Golf Club.
Australia’s Scott Hend, second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, remained firmly in contention for his World Golf Championship breakthrough after returning with a 67 to trail Kisner by four shots in tied-eighth place at the Shanghai showpiece.
Kisner, who had three runner-up finishes on the PGA TOUR this year with all of those results coming after play-offs, is hoping to use that experience to secure his victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
“I will always use that as motivation to win. It just shows you how hard it is to win I think. I just want to keep putting myself there and my chance is going to come for sure. I played good today. The weather was difficult but I hung in there and made some birdies coming in to give myself a chance to be leading going into tomorrow.
“There’re so many guys within a couple shots of the lead, it’s going to be a dogfight tomorrow no matter what,” said Kisner.
The threat of lightning had led to a lengthy suspension in the morning, and when play got underway Li was soon stamping his authority on home soil, notching four successive birdies from the first.
The 20 year old eventually signed for a 66 and will bid to become the youngest player – and the first from China – to win a World Golf Championship.
“This tournament is so big. I know that the final day, a lot of people are going to be hitting a lot of birdies. My target, my goal for this tournament it to make the top ten, because making the top ten would be a highlight and a milestone for my short career. I hope that tomorrow I can do well and finish at the position of where I want to,” said Li.
Like Li, Hend is also aiming for a grandstand finish, having put himself into contention with rounds of 68, 69 and 67 over the last three days.
“It’s obviously good to be in the mix. You never know, I might shoot a really low round and get a crack at the championship. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.
“I’ve never tried to better someone I’ve played golf with off the tee. I just do what I do and get the golf ball around. What someone else does is entirely up to them and I play my own game,” said Hend.
*Please refer to live scoring on www.asiantour.com for scores as official results will only be available after Knox completes his third round.