DAVID Howell confidently brought an end to his cut drought on the European Tour today with a steady level-par second round at the Portugal Masters.

The 43-year-old went into the tournament having failed to qualify for the weekend action in each of his last three outings.

Thursday’s superb five-under par first round of 66 went a long way to booking the Swindon star's place for the latter stages in Vilamoura, and Howell followed that up with a solid if unspectacular level-par 71 second round to remain safely inside the top 40.

Fellow Wiltshire professional Jordan Smith will also be in action over the weekend and starts the third round inside the top 20 after a four-under second round of 67 saw him reached seven-under overall.

However, the third county player competing in Portugal, Laurie Canter, missed the cut after a disastrous nine-over second round of 80 dropped him to 10-over overall and outside the top 150.

Broome Manor man Howell said: “All in all, I’m happy with my performance over the two days. Thursday went really well.

“I played nicely. I got the most out of the day that I could, which was lovely, and I got that good first round in that I have been looking for.

“There was still work to be done on Friday. I wasn’t as good as I was on Thursday but I made a couple of saves at the end.

“Over the two rounds, I’m happy. I’m doing everything slightly better than I have done in recent times, so it is lovely to go into the weekend waiting to see what I can do.”

The two-time Ryder Cup winner kick-started his day with a birdie on the first before giving the stroke back with a bogey five on the ninth.

The back nine was slightly more turbulent as he took bogey at the 13th, however, birdies around that on holes 12 and 14 saw the Swindon man moving in the right direction.

Howell signed off his second day with a bogey on the 18th, which hindered his progress rather than hating it altogether.

During the second round, Howell's fellow Englishman Oliver Fisher recorded a historic round of 59 – the first time anyone has shot that number on the European Tour – to claim a share of the lead on 12-under.

Another Englishman, Eddie Pepperell, and Australia's first round leader Lucas Herbert join him on a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard.

Howell said it was a special moment for 31-year-old Fisher.

“I was on the last hole and I saw someone was on 12-under, which made me wonder if someone was on for 59,” said Howell.

“I saw Oliver on Thursday and he was fretting about his swing. He was wondering what his day was going to bring – I don’t think anyone would believe what came his way.

“He did brilliantly to par the 18th because it’s tough. I’m really pleased because he is a great lad.”