The Northern Irishman carded birdies at the 15th and 16th holes for a second-round 70 – a score that leaves him on one under for the weekend. With the projected cut set at that score, McIlroy had been facing up to an early finish when he teed off at the 15th hole, but two timely birdies gave him a fighting chance.
At the time of signing his card he was nine shots behind leader Steve Wheatcroft – the American on 10 under without striking a ball today – and the victory he needs to regain the world number one spot he lost last week looks remote.
As a result, Tiger Woods is likely to start the Masters on top of the pile, although McIlroy should at least avoid the blow of missing the cut, assuming a lot of the players below him do not significantly improve.
The only man to make a move on the leader today was England's Brian Davis who shaved two shots off the par to move to seven under for the tournament, but still three behind Wheatcoft and one behind DA Points.
Lee Westwood made a promising start with a first-hole birdie to move to five under, while Scott Stallings and Dustin Johnson rested on that score after rounds of three and two under respectively.
While McIlroy may have a wait to see if he misses the cut, one of his former Ryder Cup team-mates, Paul Casey, already knows his fate.
The Englishman was seven over when he ended the day – 13 over for the tournament – and his hunt for form carries on.
Siem stays in Morocco lead
Marcel Siem maintained his three-shot lead at the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco after a four-under-par 68 in his second round to further boost his Masters push.
Siem, who is hoping for a strong result at the Golf du Palais Royal in order to break into the world's top 50 ahead of the qualification cut-off for Augusta, made seven birdies and three bogeys on his way to 12 under overall.
However, the German failed to make any headway into that score after four birdies in his opening eight holes.
Indeed, he would have seen his lead cut to two shots by Finland's Mikko Ilonen and England's David Horsey had he not picked up a shot on the 409-yard ninth hole – his last.