"That's all you want but really it starts on the back nine on Sunday", said Rose.
The two veterans seeking to become the oldest Masters champions slid down the leaderboard Saturday.
Spain's Sergio Garcia, who has yet to win a major tournament in 73 starts, started Saturday in a four-way tie for the lead. "I have to continue to play good, aggressive golf, as I did today".
Rose, who began the day three shots back, recorded the low round of the day (5-under 67) when he birdied the par-4 18th.
Further birdies on the eighth and 12th provided hope, but he could not add any more to close the gap on the leaders.
McIlroy's last birdie of the third round came on No. 12, and with two par 5s ahead of him, he was poised to get right in the thick of it.
Rose has a share of the 54-hole lead for the first time in a major. "You got U.S. Open, Open Championship, everything". And when he surveyed the landscape, he's not sure any of that matters. "There's times on this course where you take your medicine and try to just walk away with a par". There are too many capable players. Can you imagine Garcia ending his career drought and winning his first major on Sunday?
McIlroy was only six shots behind, but he had 10 players ahead of him - Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, enough of them to make it hard to expect all of them to stumble on Sunday. I haven't swung my best this week or as good as I have the past few weeks. He also pulled off a shot from the pine straw on the 13th by telling his caddie, "What would Arnie do?" Spieth could be heard asking his caddie Michael Greller, who suggested a lay up, "What would Arnie do?".
He was some 40 feet short and ran the first putt 10 feet by. On No. 15, he made a 4-footer for birdie. There are four golfers within two strokes of the co-leaders after Saturday play. He went wire-to-wire to win in 2015. "You know, it would be nice to have a chance and hopefully do it". "I didn't know going into my first one if I would have five chances in my life", Spieth said. Charley Hoffman sits two strokes back after falling out of the lead for the first time since Thursday after posting a four-under 68 that included a very costly double-bogey at the par-three 16th. Lee Westwood, a runner-up past year, also had a 68 and was five shots back. In a great position going into tomorrow. Many of those grays likely have come from Garcia's tussles with Augusta National over the years.
Garcia's 70 was a major triumph for him.
He said: "I did what I needed to do today. It was a reward for staying patient on the front nine".
And it's a big part of Augusta National, which could prove to be the ultimate challenge. The Australian's sole major win was at the Masters in 2013 and he'll be looking to recapture that moment in a couple of days.
A lot has changed since Sergio Garcia made his Masters debut in 1999, and earned himself a weekend appearance and T-38 finish as an amateur. It was never easy until the end, when Rose sent his drive into the trees on the 18th hole in the playoff, punched out and failed to save par from 15 feet.
Justin Rose, of England, hits to the ninth hole during the third round of the Masters golf tournament Saturday, April 8, 2017, in Augusta, Ga.
Hoffman, 40, posted a seven-under par 65 in conditions described by one former Masters victor as "borderline" unplayable.
Jordan Spieth grabbed everyone's attention Saturday.
KEY STAT: The quartet atop the leaderboard is the biggest 36-hole logjam at the tournament in 44 years.