British eventing riders had their work cut out to withstand a powerful overseas challenge at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials on Friday.
But defending champion William Fox-Pitt and his fellow London 2012 Olympian Mary King are well-placed after the dressage phase heading into Saturday's pivotal cross-country test.
Fox-Pitt and Parklane Hawk are bidding to become Burghley's first back-to-back winning combination, and a dressage score of 41.0 penalties put them equal fourth overnight alongside New Zealander Andrew Nicholson and German Kai Ruder.
Fox-Pitt is also aiming for the £90,000 HSBC Classics crown, which rewards eventing's most successful four-star rider during a 12-month period. And the stage is set for a thrilling battle over the weekend with Nicholson, who is the only competitor at Burghley able to pip him for that crown.
"It is is fantastic to have Parklane Hawk back at Burghley," said Fox-Pitt, who has landed a record six Burghley titles. "There is a lot to be done tomorrow, and let's hope the dressage score is good enough."
King, a colleague of Fox-Pitt's in the London 2012 silver medal-winning eventing team, lies eighth with Kings Temptress, but it was a day dominated by two American riders.
Sinead Halpin leads the way aboard Manoir de Carneville on an impressive 36.3, with Allison Springer and Arthur IV second, 3.7 penalties behind and just in front of Australian Clayton Fredericks (Walterstown Don).
King, 51, last won Burghley 16 years ago, and it is three years longer than that since an American took top honours at the showpiece Lincolnshire event.
Reflecting on her test, King said: "I am thrilled to bits. It is her best score at this level, and she keeps improving. She has been a really willing horse all her life.
"She has got the temperament for the cross-country tomorrow, and I know she is fit and well. It is up to me as a rider."