Tournament host Luke Donald crashed out of the British Masters as compatriot Andrew Johnston delighted the home fans by surging into contention for a second win of the season.
Donald could only add a second round of 70 to his opening 77 at The Grove to finish five over par and miss the cut by five shots.
“It was nice to finish with a few birdies and I thought as host they might give me another nine holes to try and make the cut, but it was not to be,” Donald joked.
“I’ve seen a different side of what goes on and it has been fun to be a part of. It’s tough to juggle but I’m not going to make any excuses.”
At the other end of the leaderboard, England’s Richard Bland carded a flawless 64 late in the day to claim the halfway lead on 11 under par, a shot ahead of Johnston and Noren.
Bland has yet to win a European Tour event in almost 400 appearances, but a new aggressive approach has helped the 43-year-old record six top-10 finishes and just two missed cuts in 2016.
“It’s by far the best year of my career and there is so much more still to play for,” the world No 127 said.
“Suddenly you start thinking about your world ranking and the possibility of playing in some majors next year.
“I want to keep the foot down and make it an unbelievable year and to win here would be a huge honour.”
Playing partners Johnston and Noren had led for much of the day after matching rounds of 65 which featured a three-shot swing on their final hole as Noren double-bogeyed and Johnston made birdie.
Johnston hit the headlines in April by winning his first European Tour title in the Spanish Open and admitting he could not wait to get home afterwards to ‘’get hammered’’ with friends and family.
The 27-year-old Londoner has since become better known by his nickname ‘’Beef’’ and is hugely popular with spectators, revealing he had signed an apple for a young fan and the forehead of a man who was old enough to know better.
But the world No 79 also has some serious goals on the course and would love to win the £500,000 first prize on home soil tomorrow.
“It would be massive,” said Johnston, who joked he has yet to tell his sister he plans to live with her in Orlando when he splits his time between the PGA Tour and European Tour next season. “I didn’t play very well last week and worked really hard Monday to Wednesday because I wanted to come here and do really well.”
Asked if he had a message for his fans, Johnston added: “Make some noise. All I want to hear out there is, ‘Beef.’ I am loving it. The fans have been amazing so just keep it up. It means the world to me.”
Scotland’s Scott Jamieson and the English pair of Tommy Fleetwood and Anthony Wall were two shots off the lead on nine under, with Chris Wood, Richard Sterne and Dunhill Links winner Tyrrell Hatton another stroke back.
Jamieson is currently 117th on the Race to Dubai, with only the top 110 after next week’s Portugal Masters keeping their card for next season, but has been inspired by compatriot Marc Warren, who jumped from 125th to 70th by finishing fifth behind Hatton on Sunday.
“It’s amazing how quickly things can change,” Jamieson said after a flawless 65. “Marc went from possibly losing his card to maybe playing in all the Final Series events, but I still have two big days ahead of me.
“It’s tough but you have to face it as a challenge. It’s obviously not an ideal situation but I just have to trust in my ability and see where it takes me.”
Wood carded an error-free 66 to boost his chances of joining Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie in winning the BMW PGA Championship and British Masters in the same year.
“It’s beginning to become a target,” Wood said. “Obviously I’m four behind Alex and he’s playing great this year. But what a motivation that is, to try to get your name up with those guys.”
Lee Westwood birdied two of his last three holes to shoot 68 and finish seven under, – four shots off the lead – while Harrogate’s John Parry hit 67 to sit three shots further back – two ahead of Sheffield’s defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick, who repeated his first round score of 70.