Norway's Kjetil Jansrud, fresh from a downhill bronze medal five days ago, led in the men's super-combined on Friday, with the slalom still to go.
The 28-year-old clocked the fastest time down the Rosa Khutor downhill run at 1min 53.24.
He was followed by Czech skier Ondrej Bank at 0.14sec and Sunday's Olympic downhill champion Matthias Mayer of Austria at 0.37sec.
US hot shot Ted Ligety, combined world champion and one of the favourites to win gold, finished 18th at almost two seconds behind Jansrud, and will have to make up for that with a strong slalom.
French young gun Alexis Pinturault, also a top medal contender in the Valentine's Day super-combined, was 23rd at 2.44sec but still felt he had good chances.
"Maybe if I'd had an earlier start, it would have been better," said the racer, who started in 17th place on a course that was gradually softening due to warm temperatures.
"But I'm still in the running at least for a podium."
Croatian veteran Ivica Kostelic, super-combined silver medallist in Vancouver and at the world championships last year, finished in a strong seventh place.
A lot hangs on the slalom run, which will start at 3:30pm (1130GMT).
"In combined, the slalom is two thirds (of the race)," noted Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, who was sixth after the first run and could be looking at another medal to add to his three from Vancouver.
His teammate Jansrud was meanwhile satisfied after the first run.
"I had a good run, not too many mistakes, kept my line. Overall I'm happy with my time."
"It's going to be tough but I will do my best," he said of the upcoming slalom.
For him, top contenders for a medal included 33-year-old Bank and his Norwegian teammate Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.
Bank, looking ahead to the slalom, noted: "I feel pretty confident."
"My slalom is ok, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Who knows?"
"Maybe it's better not thinking now," he said with a grin.
US star Bode Miller, looking to make up for a disappointing eighth place in the downhill, was 12th.