Ryan Lochte won his 200m IM semi-final in 1:55.51sec - fastest time in the world this year
Ryan Lochte came out on top in another semi-final tussle with Michael Phelps at the US Olympic swimming trials as he set himself up for a tilt at a 200m backstroke-medley double.
Lochte settled for bronze in the 200m medley at the Beijing Olympics behind Phelps and Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, then eclipsed Phelps -- and his world record -- at the World Championships in Shanghai last year.
He on Friday signalled his intentions for the final with a victory over Phelps in the first semi-final in 1min 55.51sec -- the fastest time in the world this year.
Phelps was second, and second-fastest overall into the final, in 1:56.66.
The clash was part of a busy night for Lochte, who led the way into the final of the 200m backstroke in 1:55.73.
"I knew he kind of took off, so I was like I probably should save something for tomorrow," Phelps said. "I kind of shut it down once the race was kind of over."
So far this week, Phelps and Lochte are 1-1 in finals as the trials offered a glimpse of a rivalry that will be on display at the London Aquatics Centre.
As always, the duel between the superstars drew the spotlight on a night when three finals decided six spots on the team for London.
Nathan Adrian won the 100m freestyle in 48.10sec with Cullen Jones second in 48.46.
Adrian's time made him the fourth-fastest swimmer in the world this year in the prestige freestyle sprint, although the time was a second slower than the 47.10 that's been posted by world leader Australian James Magnusson.
Jason Lezak, hero of the US 4x100m free relay team in Beijing, finished sixth, which should be enough to give him a trip to London as part of the relay pool.
Scott Weltz seized his first Olympic team place with an upset win in the 200m breaststroke as veteran Olympians Brendan Hansen and Eric Shanteau were shut out.
Hansen and Shanteau had already secured berths for London with a one-two finish in the 100m breaststroke, but neither will get a chance to double after Weltz roared home, surging from sixth at the 100m mark to win in 2:09.01.
"I feel like I didn't take a single hard stroke in the first 100," Weltz said. "When I turned, I wasn't a body-length behind and I said 'I can do this.'"
"And I built it in the third lap and brought it home. I just had that in my mind at the 100 -- 'I can do this, I can do this,' and I didn't feel a thing after that."
Clark Burckle was second in 2:09.97, with Shanteau and Hansen third and fourth.
"He swam like a big-time swimmer," said Hansen, adding: "I can't believe Eric and I are not swimming the 200."
Cammile Adams also poured it on late to win the women's 200m butterfly in 2:06.52. Adams was seventh at the first turn, third at the halfway mark and second at the final turn, pulling away to win by more than a second over 2008 Olympian Kathleen Hersey (2:07.72).
There were no surprises in the women's 200m breaststroke semi-finals, as Rebecca Soni led the way into the final in a blistering 2:21.45.
Natalie Coughlin, an 11-time Olympic medallist, kept her hopes of reaching a third Olympics alive. After failing to qualify in the 100m butterfly and the 100m backstroke -- which she won at the past two Games -- Coughlin notched the seventh-fastest time in the 100m freestyle semi-finals.
Amanda Weir notched the night's fastest time of 54.14sec, followed by Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt.
Only the top two finishers in each event at the eight-day meeting punch their tickets to London in individual events.