Now recovered from an athritic type back injury which forced him out of the game for much of 2011, Sterne is beginning to play at the elevel that saw him inside the top 30 in the game before injury struck.
The 31 year old's second round of two under par 70 kept him one shot clear of Englishman Tommy Fleetwood (68), Scotland's Stephen Gallacher (70) and Denmark's ThrobjÃƒÂ¸rn Olesen (66).
Given the difference in conditions compared to round one at the Emirates Golf Club, when Sterne posted a brilliant ten under 62, the man in command was pleased to be heading into the weekend with a one stroke lead.
"The course was a lot tougher today with the wind and the greens definitely firmed out a bit," said Sterne, who is making his way back to the top after spending the majority of the last three years plagued by back injuries.
"I think it's going to be quite tricky coming to the weekend. There's a lot of guys bunched up and you're going to have to play pretty well on the weekend to be there on Sunday.
"I have spent a long time sitting at home watching all the guys, and especially the South Africans winning and Branden [Grace} winning a lot last year. But it's nice to be back in the action and to have a chance going into the weekend."
Challenge Tour graduates Andreas HartÃƒÂ¸ of Denmark, Chris Doak of Scotland and the German Max Kieffer share fifth place on ten under in Dubai, while Ryder Cup star Sergio Garcia defied a shoulder injury which required on-course treatment during round two to join Jeev Milkha Singh and Romain Wattel on nine under par.
Garcia said: "It's a little bit of a tight shoulder, and I am trying to protect it so the neck and the arm get a little bit sore from that. I got treatment yesterday and felt better this morning, but as the day goes on, giving it more shots, it tightens up a little bit. So hopefully we'll work it out again and see if we can get it better every day."
Marcus Fraser is the only Australian to have made the cut, the Victorian in a share of 11th position.