Willett, 30, fought back from an early round double bogey to post a two-under par 70 and move into a share of fifth place at six-under par in ideal conditions on the acclaimed Pat Ruddy-designed Glashedy course.
Sheffield-born Willett has been in the golfing wilderness since early 2016 when he won the Dubai Desert Classic and then proudly stood-up to be fitted with an Augusta National members green jacket.
The closest the current World No 442, who had reached a career high of No 9 in winning the Masters, has come to tasting success again was sixth late last year in the Hong Kong Open while he showed good recent form in ending T8th in last month’s Italian Open.
“When you start seeing the shots, you start to play slightly more clever golf,” Willett said.
“When you’re struggling, it’s very hard to hit it – you’re trying to hit it to safe sides, especially golf courses like last week and this week.
“It gives you a little bit of a buffer in there. Yeah, like I said, the results don’t always come but it is nice that we’ve got a couple of nice rounds together here and we’re playing the next three weeks.
“It’s nice to hopefully build momentum.”
The only downside for the likes of Willett and ‘Three Lions’ golfing compatriot, Lee Westwood, just a stroke behind Willett, is they will be on course on Saturday when England tackle Sweden in the World Cup quarter-finals.
“It will be all right. I’m sure they will do alright without me watching,” said Willett.
“We’ll have to get the television crew to keep us updated.”
Tournament host Rory McIlroy guaranteed himself an earlier tee time after what was really an ‘ugly’ second round 73 that dropped him back to one-under par.
“I bogeyed three of the last five or something like that, which isn’t great, but I played okay again,” he said.
“The game felt okay. Didn’t hole anything again on the greens but hopefully I can turn that around over the weekend.”
The trio of Kiwi Ryan Fox (69), Frenchman Mattieu Pavon (68) and South African Erik Van Rooyen (65) head the event by a stroke at eight-under par.
Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren (68), winner of this year’s Sicilian Open, is in fourth place at seven-under par.
Tied with Willett at six-under is fellow Englishman Sam Horsfield (69) with Westwood (71) just one shot further back on five-under par.