SCHLADMING, Austria (Reuters) - Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal snatched the super-G title at the Alpine ski World Cup finals on Thursday in a race which strengthened the ambitions of Austria's Marcel Hirscher for the overall title.
World Cup overall leader Beat Feuz lost his balance and crashed halfway down the Planai piste, failing to score points in one of his best events.
Svindal finished 16th in the last super-G of the season, won by world champion Christof Innerhofer of Italy, but his two rivals for the discipline's title, Feuz and Didier Cuche, also had a disappointing day, handing the Olympic champion the seventh World Cup trophy of his career.
Innerhofer won the race in one minute 21.24 seconds, with a 0.02-second lead over France's Alexis Pinturault while Hirscher was a surprise third, 0.06 adrift.
Swiss Feuz's hopes for the super-G title vanished in his crash which also dented his prospects in the overall competition.
Hirscher's third place, his first podium place in a speed event, means the Austrian now trails Feuz by 75 points in the overall cup standings with two events left, the slalom and giant slalom which he has dominated all winter.
The overall trophy is now expected to go to either Hirscher or Feuz and will be decided on the final weekend of the season.
"I made a classic mistake and I skidded out," said Feuz. "Hirscher is now the favorite but I will keep fighting."
Hirscher was delighted with his unexpected podium place. "It's almost unreal, I can hardly believe it," he said. "I was feeling good but I didn't expect such a result.
"I don't want to make calculations, we'll make them on Sunday. Feuz showed today that mistakes can happen any time."
With 200 points left to be won, Svindal - 199 points behind in third place - still has the smallest mathematical chance. However, though he is a former world champion in giant slalom, he has not raced slalom in a year and has never finished better than sixth in the discipline.
In the super-G, Svindal won the title with a 13-point lead over Switzerland's Cuche, the outgoing champion, who was cheered by the 15,000 spectators in the finish area in the last speed race of his career and finished a modest ninth.
Croatia's Ivica Kostelic, last year's overall champion, decided to miss the super-G and pin all his hopes on Sunday's slalom and the discipline's title.