ATHENS (Reuters) - Cypriot conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades has grabbed a strong lead in Sunday's presidential election and may have secured enough support to avoid a run-off, an exit poll by the state broadcaster CyBC showed.

The 66-year-old lawyer took 51.1 percent share of the vote according to the poll, which put his support at between 49.6 and 52.6 percent. He needs over 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off on February 24.

He easily beat leftist rival Stavros Malas who secured on average 27.3 percent of the vote, the poll said.

A third contender, the independent candidate George Lillikas took 18 percent of the vote, according to the poll.

(Reporting by Michele Kambas, Writing by Deepa Babington)