Carolina Kostner grabbed the first ticket for next month's showpiece finals in Quebec City after the talented Italian skater dazzled at the ISU Cup of China Grand Prix series on Saturday.
In the men's event Vancouver Olympian Jeremy Abbott, who was returning to competition for the first time since February, secured gold despite taking a tumble, while Russia dominated the partnered events in Shanghai.
"First ticket! First ticket!" exclaimed a well-wisher who hugged Kostner, who ended the competition with 182.14 points. It was her second gold place in the series and means she has secured one of the six prized spots for December.
She admitted that she had entered the grand prix with "some doubts" and had even questioned whether she wanted to continue skating after her 16th place in the Vancouver Olympics.
The multiple European champion said that while Friday's competition had felt "like jumping in cold water", on Saturday that water felt "a little warmer".
"I felt much better on the ice," she added.
Kostner said one of her concerns had been negotiating a triple Lutz jump. Instead she said she had focused on her triple flip, trip toe.
Mirai Nagasu of the United States described her second-placed finish as breaking her China curse. In Beijing Grand Prix competition in 2010 she fell back to fourth after the first day.
In men's free skating competition a series of slips and trips caused Friday's first-placed Artur Gachinski of Russia to fall away.
Abbott also hit the ice but still won through with 228.49 points.
"If I were to let it affect me then I'd have a whole four minutes and fifteen seconds of torture left," the US man said of his tumble on an attempt at a quad at the very start of his programme.
"Not every win is going to be picture perfect."
Nobunari Oda of Japan, who fell on a triple flip, ended in second place.
Local plaudits went to 21-year-old Beijing student Song Nan, who came home third overall and was one of the few men not to slip or fall during his performance. He squeezed to first in the free skating.
"There's no words to describe my emotion," said Song.
Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov powered through the free-style portion of the pairs competition to win with 186.74 points overall.
Fellow Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev held on to a commanding first place with 163.52 points in the ice dancing.