Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield failed to take advantage of a second-string China team as they missed the medals in the platform synchro on the opening day of the World Series event in Moscow.
An error-strewn performance from the British duo meant they were never likely to replicate the silver medal they won in the second leg of the series in Beijing last month.
Instead they had to be content with fifth place with a score of 429.39 as Germany's Sascha Klein and Patrick Hausding broke China's dominance.
The Chinese had won every gold at the opening two World Series events but second-choice pairing Lin Yue and Yuo Liang failed to make the podium, finishing just ahead of Daley and Waterfield in fourth.
Earlier, Jack Laugher narrowly failed the reach the men's springboard final after recording a score of 425.95.
Saturday's final day of competition will see Daley attempt to claim a third successive podium at this year's World Series in the individual platform.
The 17-year-old former world champion won silver in the opening two legs behind China's Qiu Bo.