Anna Shcherbakova had a season's best short program to head the field on the opening day of the Cup of China in Chongqing, round four of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating.
But there was a huge shock in the men's competition as two-time Olympian Yan Han, winner of this competition back in 2013, took advantage of falls from his rivals to take the overnight lead from fellow Chinese Jin Boyang.
Russian Shcherbakova, who won Skate America on her senior ISU Grand Prix debut, fell in the warm-up but produced a clean skate when it counted to take a healthy advantage into the free skate.
Unlike in the short program, quad jumps do score in the free skate to give the 15-year-old - who has two quad Lutzes planned in the free skate - every chance of making it two wins out of two to send her through to December's Grand Prix Final in Turin.
"After Skate America we worked a lot on the short program, on the jumps and step sequence. But my main goal is the free skating tomorrow." - Anna Shcherbakova speaking to ISU.org
Shcherbakova on track
Amber Glenn led after the first group of six skaters with a career-best short program scoring 67.69.
But the American, who was seventh in Las Vegas behind Shcherbakova three weeks ago, was probably surprised to stay in the top three thanks to some error-strewn routines from her more illustrious rivals.
Korean You Young, who scored 78.22 in her short program at Skate Canada, had a nightmare here as she fell on a triple Axel and a triple flip leaving her down in seventh place on 61.49.
Then came reigning Russian champion Shcherbakova who landed a double Axel, a triple flip and a slightly scruffy triple Lutz-triple loop combination.
Having fallen on her step sequence at Skate America, there were no such mishaps this time with her score of 73.51 enough to take victory on the day.
She told ISU.org, "The performance was good, I did all my jumps and elements, but I want more quality for all my elements. It was better (than at Skate America), because I did all elements clean."
Next was Satoko Miyahara whose artistic interpretation impressed the judges, but was marked down on her triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and her closing triple loop.
The 21-year-old Japanese, fourth at PyeongChang 2018, scored 68.91 to move into second.
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva performing at something like her best would have had a chance of taking top spot, but a fall on her opening triple Axel dealt a hammer blow to her hopes.
The 2015 world champion could only score 65.57 with European champion Sofia Samodurova fifth on 63.99 to leave Glenn in a podium place.
But all eyes on Saturday will be on Shcherbakova who can become the first woman to book her place in the Grand Prix Final.
Yan rolls back years as rivals toil
The men's event saw several of the top contenders blow their chances with falls.
Yan Han, the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic gold medallist who famously collided heavily with Yuzuru Hanyu in the warm-up at the 2014 Cup of China, was making his return to international competition after taking last year out.
He showed he was back to his best with an excellent short program to score 86.46.
The 23-year-old then watched as his fellow competitors failed to stay on their feet.
Junhwan Cha had a dismal time, falling on a quad Salchow and a triple Axel.
Joined by coach Brian Orser in the 'kiss and cry', the Korean received a score of 69.40 which left him down in 11th place at the end of the day.
Universiade winner Matteo Rizzo looked to be enjoying himself on the ice until being derailed by a fall on a triple Lutz.
Despite that setback, the Italian scored 81.42 to move into second place.
Incredibly, Yan was still in front with just compatriot Jin to go.
And the drama was far from over as the 22-year-old fell on his opening quad Lutz to dent his chances.
Jin did land a quad toe loop-double toe loop combination, but his score of 85.43 was not quite enough to overtake Yan who celebrated a shock win on his comeback.
Camden Pulkinen fell on a quad toe loop but skated well enough for fourth place to remain in contention overall.
Keegan Messing's best would have easily taken him into the lead but the Canadian, who emotionally marked the death of his brother at Skate America, fell on a quad toeloop and landed a double Axel instead of a triple which saw him end the day in fifth.
Keiji Tanaka finished third at Skate America but an attempted combination almost left him in the sideboards as he placed down in seventh.
World champs dominate pairs event
The silver medallists from PyeongChang were almost 12 points clear of the rest with a score of 80.90, even better than the short program mark they posted on their way to clinching a second world title in Saitama in March.
Russians in charge in ice dance
World Championship silver medallists Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov lead the way in the ice dance thanks to a career-best rhythm dance.
Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen of Canada were third on 78.41.