Dartnall leads countryman David McKenzie and Singapore's Quincy Quek by a stroke, with Ray Beaufils and Fei Hao Yang tied for fourth, four shots behind.
Dartnall has already shown he can contend this season, tying for third at the Mission Hills Haikou Open and tying for fourth in February at the Victoria PGA Championship on the PGA Tour of Australasia. With two rounds to play, he is looking to break through for that elusive win.
"I played solid, I holed some nice putts. I did everything I needed to do," Dartnall explained.
His "solid" play included recovering from his double bogey caused by an errant drive, a penalty shot, a missed green and two putts. "This course is difficult, so you have to expect bogeys"”or double bogeys," Dartnall added, laughing.
McKenzie is playing in only his second PGA TOUR China Series event, having made his debut in April at the Mission Hills Haikou Open, where he tied for 12th.
McKenzie has also had starts on the OneAsia Tour, with his best finish a tie for 24th at South Korea's SK Telecom Open in mid-May.
His work on the greens has been the key to McKenzie's success this week. He only used his putter 27 times during his first-round 68, and he only needed 26 putts Friday. "My putting has been very good," he understated. McKenzie's longest putt Friday was a 15-foot par save on his 17th hole that kept his momentum going after he missed the green with his approach on the par 3.
McKenzie, who turns 47 next month, was a PGA TOUR member in 2006 and has played seven full seasons on the Web.com Tour, with 183 career starts on his resume. He won the 2005 Gila River Golf Classic in Arizona for his lone victory on that Tour. A year ago, he outlasted Dartnall, among others, to win the Victorian PGA Championship on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
With 36 holes still to play, McKenzie wasn't afraid to guess what he anticipated the winning score would be. "I'm thinking 19-under is what will win here," he said.
Two late birdies by Quek moved him into a tie for second as he seeks to improve on the tie for fifth he recorded in his only other PGA TOUR China Series start, at the Mission Hills Haikou Open.
Tied for third through 18 holes, Xin Jun Zhang appeared to be tied for sixth following his second round. Zhang was disqualified after a scoring mistake, though, signing for a par-4 on the 13th hole when he actually made a bogey. Officials notified him following the round, and he accepted the decision.
Taiwan's Fang Hao Yang moved up the leaderboard Friday with his 5-under 67. Yang made five consecutive birdies to start his back nine (holes 1 through 5) to tie the PGA TOUR China Series record originally set by Zhang. Yang's closing-hole birdie on No. 9 also gave him a front-nine 30 that tied a PGA TOUR China Series nine-hole record, a mark also held by Zhang (back nine in the third round at the Mission Hills Haikou Open).