But Gilford played his last six holes in one over and had to be content with a 13 under-par aggregate of 131 - five adrift of Tom Haliburton's record, which was set 41 years ago.
Jorge Berendt, the first-day pace-setter, had a 71 to go joint second on 10 under with Frank Nobilo, of New Zealand, while Jeremy Robinson and Olle Karlsson of Sweden were a stroke further back - Robinson after the day's best round of 64.
Minutes before Gilford took a six at the long sixth, his fellow Midlander, Martin Poxon, had achieved a remarkable eagle. His drive bounded into a lake but after taking a penalty drop, he hit a one-iron 260 yards into the hole.
In contrast Gilford, chasing his second victory of the fledgling season, pulled his second shot left, chipped poorly and needed three more from the edge. He was still delighted with his round. 'For the first 13 holes I played as well as I could,' he said. He twice struck six-irons to within 18 inches of the flag after beginning the day with a seven- iron to two feet.
Nobilo, who captured the Mediterranean Open a fortnight ago, looked the biggest threat to Gilford. He pitched to 12 feet at the last for a fifth birdie and said: 'I'm very happy - I'm still in touch and that's the main thing. Anything can happen in two days.'
Mark Roe looked dangerous when he joined Gilford and Robinson at seven under after 12. But he came to grief on the long 14th. His second shot lodged in a tree: he sent his caddie up to retrieve the ball but still posted a double-bogey seven.