Molinari’s round of 66 was the best of the day by two shots and launched him into the lead before McIlroy would then birdie the final two holes to join the Italian.
McIlroy had earlier made a disastrous start to his round with a bogey at the 3rd and a double bogey at the 6th holes but played the remaining 12 holes in 4 under par.
After missing the cut in the PGA Tour's flagship event at his last start Mcilroy the four time major champion is now poised to win the European Tour's equivalent.
“It was a struggle out there today,” said McIlroy. “But I'm proud of myself, I stayed patient. Actually, I'm feeling a bit better about myself after today than I was even walking off the course yesterday. I felt like I left a few out there yesterday and I felt like I basically did as good as I could have done today.
“I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I'll need to play better than today. All I wanted to do was give myself a chance going into Sunday and I've been able to do that. Hopefully that's my bad round out of the way and I can play better tomorrow.
McIlroy won this event in 2014 but, in the main, his record such a big event is ordinary having missed three of his last four cuts at Wentworth but he is clearly well placed to add another victory.
The leading pair are head by four over England’s Sam Horshfield and Ross Fisher, Sweden’s Alex Noren and South African Branden Grace.
Grace comes off the back of a stunning final round in Dallas last week so a similar effort tomorrow might just see him challenge the leaders.
Not a lot of joy for the Australasians in the field this week only Ryan Fox (40th) and Andrew Dodt (59th) making the cut.
PETER MANZIE SHOULDER ALIGNMENT FOR BETTER DRIVING
Want video tips delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to iseekgolf.com newsletters.