At the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates, world number one McIlroy and number-two ranked Donald were joined at 11-under par 133 by Scotland’s World No 189 Marc Warren.
McIlroy (67) was unable to take sole possession of the lead when he failed to make a birdie on the final hole, which was played from the forward tee and reachable in two, while Donald (68) joined him and Warren (67) on top with a textbook birdie on the par-5 hole.
The leading trio were one shot ahead of South African duo of World No 6 Louis Oosthuizen (67) and Branden Grace (65).
McIlroy, who complained of having a massive headache last night, said he felt all right on the golf course as he mixed six birdies with a solitary bogey on the fourth hole.
“I didn’t feel great last night, but I felt much better this morning and felt nearly 100 percent on the golf course,” said the 23-year-old. “I guess it’s just us Irish and the skin just not used to this sort of sun. That’s my excuse anyway.