Alena Kostornaia was all smiles as she took the short program in Stage 4 of figure skating's Cup of Russia in Kazan on Sunday (8 November).
The 2019-20 Grand Prix Final winner and reigning European champion skated with her trademark grace and style in her first competition since leaving coach Eteri Tutberidze to work under Evgeni Plushenko.
Despite one slight jumping error, she scored 78.15 to take victory on the day from training partner Alexandra Trusova with 14-year-old Maiia Khromykh just behind in third.
Evgeny Semenenko leads the men's singles after an excellent short program from Roman Savosin and Makar Ignatov.
Tight at the top in women's singles
Trusova was first of the big names to skate having won Stage 2 in Moscow.
Skating to 'Love Story' and 'Appassionata', the 16-year-old just held on to her opening triple Axel before hitting a solid triple flip and a fine triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination.
She received a warm ovation after a solid routine which showed beyond doubt that she has added artistry to her explosive jumping.
Trusova received a score of 77.42, exactly one-tenth shy of her score in Moscow four weeks ago.
Kostornaia was the second-last skater on the ice and produced a typically smooth performance to Billie Eilish's 'No Time to Die' and 'You Should See Me in a Crown'.
After an excellent double Axel and a fine triple Lutz which saw her come close to the rink perimeter, she was somewhat unbalanced at the end of her triple flip-triple toe loop combination.
But her score of 78.15 was enough to give her a narrow victory over Trusova who also switched from Tutberidze to Plushenko in the close season.
Maiia Khromykh, another young talent from Tutberidze's Sambo-70 club, was last to go and impressed with her skate to 'I'll Take Care of You'.
She landed a double Axel followed by a triple Lutz and a triple flip-triple toe loop combination to score 76.89 leaving just 1.26 points off Kostornaia's lead.
Sofia Samodurova, the surprise European champion from 2019. was fourth on 67.16.
Semenenko surges into men's lead
Evgeny Semenenko produced a superb short program to take the lead going into Monday's free skate.
But the 17-year-old will hope to avoid a repeat of Stage 2 in Moscow where he slipped from first place to fourth.
Semenenko was almost perfect in Kazan, hitting a quad Salchow and a triple Axel before landing a triple flip-triple toe loop combination in his routine to Igor Korneliuk's 'The City Which Doesn't Exist'.
He earned a score of 96.00, nine points better than he achieved in Moscow, to finish the day atop the leaderboard.
Roman Savosin lies second to give himself an excellent chance of finishing in the top 12 in the five-stage series to make December's Russian nationals.
After his second place in Stage 1 in Syzran, the 2019 World Junior Championship runner-up landed a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination, a quad Salchow and a triple Axel for a score of 90.88.
Makar Ignatov is third after a fall on a triple Axel marred an otherwise excellent skate.
The 20-year-old from St Petersburg opened with a flawless quad loop followed by a fine quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination before coming to grief on his final jumping element.
But 89.14 leaves the man who finished third at last year's Rostelecom Cup well in contention.
Ilya Yablokov is fourth ahead of Egor Rukhin and Mark Kondratyuk.
Andrei Mozalev has it all to do in the free skate after his jumping let him down badly on Sunday.
The reigning world junior champion fell on his opening quad flip before landing a somewhat scruffy quad toe loop-double toe loop combination.
He also had a hand down on his closing triple Axel and gave a grimace at the end of a skate for which he received a score of 74.55 leaving him down in seventh place.
With a second place in the bank from Sochi two weeks ago, Lausanne 2020 YOG silver medallist Mozalev probably needs a top-five finish to qualify for the Russian Championships in Chelyabinsk over Christmas.