HONG KONG - Germany just scraped through to the second round of the Olympic equestrian jumping competition Sunday, moving into equal eighth place with the giant-killing Australians who were rightly claiming a best ever.
The halo the Germans had worn as favourites clattered to the ground as none of their world-beating riders could score a clear round.
It was picked up by the Americans, defending team gold medallists, who looked polished as they moved to equal pole position with Switzerland.
The USA's Mclain Ward on Sapphire moved to equal top spot with Canada's Eric Lamaze and Hickstead in the individual rankings, both with clear rounds and zero penalties.
Defending individual gold medalist Rodrigo Pessoa, on Rufus, chalked up one penalty point.
Beezie Madden, for the US, had an uncharacteristically difficult round with Authentic and picked up 11 penalties.
But it's the top three scores of the four-man team that count so Laura Kraut and Cedric on four, and Will Simpson and Carlsson Vom Dach on eight made up the team's 12 penalties.
Sunday's competition at Hong Kong's Shatin arena was the second qualifying round for the individual event and the first team round.
Results decided the top eight teams plus the top individuals for a total of 50 horse-and-rider combinations to go through to the team final on Monday and the individual final on Thursday.
The top eight has become nine, as Australia and Germany lie equal with 20 penalties.
The top eight teams are: Switzerland and the USA on 12 penalties, Sweden on 13, Britain and Canada on 16, the Netherlands and Norway on 17, and Germany and Australia on 20.
The last time Australia did so well was seventh place in the second round in Tokyo in 1964.
Edwina Alexander and her horse Itot Du Chateau jumped a clear round, for a total of four penalties and equal eighth ranking in the individual competition.
It was an evening of high emotion, as the Germans were bitterly disappointed with their performance.
Ludger Beerbaum, who already has a chestful of team and individual Olympic medals, said after his round he was anxious about whether the team would even make the eight.
'We need to get accustomed to the idea that the medal is gone,' he said.
The highest-scoring German was world number one Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, who with her horse Shutterfly sits in equal 26th place in the individual rankings with 10 penalties.
Local hero Patrick Lam, 25, stunned the crowds - and himself ? by once again riding a superb ride with Urban to take his total penalties to nine.
'I still haven't woken up from the dream yet,' he said, referring to his surprise clear round in the first qualifier last week .
An amateur rider studying law full time at an Austrian university, Lam moved to equal 22nd in the individual rankings, going through to the second round - far beyond his, or anyone else's expectations.
Only three of the four British riders came out as John Whitaker, the team anchor who had been a serious medal contender, withdrew after his horse Peppermill 'was a little tight and stiff,' the team said in a statement.
His withdrawal is a blow not only for Britain but for the talented Whitaker clan, as John's brother Michael was forced to pull out earlier in the week after his mare Portofino went lame.
Four riders were eliminated, the most dramatic being Jamal Rahimov of Azerbaijan who took a bad fall from Codar on the penultimate jumps and was taken to hospital for a check-up before being released.