Favourite for the men’s alpine combined Alexis Pinturault saw his gold medal hopes take a hit after a “disappointing” downhill section in Beijing.
The French skier clocked 01:45.04 while Super-G bronze medallist Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway recorded the quickest time with 1:43.12.
Pinturault, who won silver in Pyeongchang four years ago behind the now-retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher, made an error on the 3.1-kilometre course which ultimately proved costly.
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"I didn't think that would have cost me so much, but the truth is that it has," he said.
"I'm quite behind, not on level pegging with (Johannes) Strolz and Marco (Schwarz), so all of a sudden it's far from obvious.
"But you never know what can happen. It can quickly swing the other way in the slalom. The gap is big, but everything's possible."
The Frenchman will try to make up ground on his rivals in the slalom at 0615 GMT.
Norway’s Kilde may lead the group going into the slalom, but he does not expect to finish with a medal.
"I don't think so!" he said when asked if he had a chance of medalling.
"But slalom is slalom, anything can happen. It's a challenging slalom more because of the snow than the course. The course looks pretty nice.
"I haven't skied slalom in two years, so for me it doesn't really matter what comes, it's going to be challenging anyways."
Kilde is the boyfriend of American skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who has had a calamitous start to her Beijing campaign with two DNF’s.
The Norwegian said Shiffrin had offered him some advice ahead of his slalom.
"She just said to me 'keep up the tempo and keep the skis under you' and that's what I'm going to do," he said.
In truth, Kilde is unlikely to hold his lead against reigning world champion Schwarz and Strolz in the slalom ad the Austrian pair will be favourites to battle it out for the gold medal.
Strolz sits in fourth at 0.75 seconds with Schwarz in fifth at 0.95 off the leading pace.
Any medal would round off an incredible comeback for Strolz after he was dropped from the Austrian team last year due to poor results, having since fought his way back into contention.
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