Political novice Ahn Cheol-Soo has surged up the poll ratings since entering South Korea's presidential race, boosting the chances of taking his candidacy all the way to the ballot box in December.
An opinion poll published Friday showed Ahn leading the conservative ruling party candidate, Park Geun-Hye, for the first time in a theoretical head-to-head race.
The survey, by the independent ratings agency Realmeter, showed Ahn on 49.9 percent compared to 44 percent for Park, the daughter of South Korea's former military ruler Park Chung-Hee.
The survey of 1,500 voters was carried out on Wednesday and Thursday, following Ahn's announcement that he would stand in the December 19 election.
The election is currently a three-way race between Park, Ahn and the liberal opposition party candidate Moon Jae-In.
Given that Ahn and Moon are likely to split the liberal vote, most analysts believe they will be forced to reach a compromise before polling day whereby one stands down to allow a unified candidate to take on Park.
Although Ahn, a software mogul, has virtually no political experience, the poll findings will boost his camp's claims that he should be the one to remain in the race.
Ahn kicked off his campaign Thursday with a visit to the National Cemetery in Seoul, where he paid his respects at the graves of past presidents from the left and right, including Park's father.
The move was seen as a conciliatory gesture and contrasted with Moon, who visited only the grave of the late leftist president Kim Dae-Jung.
"Ahn's visit to the National Cemetery helped him attract support from centrist voters," Lee Taek-Soo, the head of Realmeter, told journalists.
Given a three-way race, the Realmeter survey showed Park on 35.9 percent, Ahn on 32.6 percent and Moon on 19.7 percent.