Adam Scott admits he is too far back to repeat his "fluke" 2013 Northern Trust victory at Liberty National but can break his play-offs campaign wide open with a hot final round in New Jersey.
Scott's two-under-par 69 left him at seven under and a distant seven shots behind 54-hole leader Patrick Reed (67).
Reed leads Abraham Ancer (68) by one shot while Brandt Snedeker (63) and Jon Rahm (69) share third at 12 under.
Scott conceded he is unlikely to make up such a deficit as he did at Liberty National in 2013, when he started the final round six shots off the pace but charged to a one-shot win.
"There are a lot of players to pass; it'll be very tough but it's not impossible," Scott told AAP.
"It was a fluke," he said of 2013, "one of those chance occurrences when no one in front of me played any good and I played a solid round," he said of 2013.
However Scott has plenty to play for on the final day.
Currently 21st on the FedEx Cup points tally, Scott can all but assure himself a place in the Tour Championship play-offs finale with a strong result at the Northern Trust.
A top-10 finish would move him higher up the FedEx standings and make it almost impossible to drop outside the top 30 who qualify for the Tour Championship after next week's BMW event.
Scott says locking up a Tour Championship berth would allow him to take an aggressive game plan into the BMW Championship and try to end his three-year winless stretch.
"If I can, that will make BMW a completely free week," he said.
"I could free-wheel it in Chicago, absolutely go for it. Just attack and see what happens."
Scott's countryman Matt Jones also finished at seven under courtesy of a 68.
Jones needs a crack final round to keep his season alive.
At 115th on the FedEx standings, Jones is projected to need a finish of eighth or better to make it to the BMW Championship.
Rounding out the Australian tilt is Cameron Smith, whose 70 left him well back at two under the card.
Smith, who sits 79th on the FedEx, will also be bundled out of the play-offs unless he can climb into the top 70 after Sunday's final round.