Mark Cavendish was left waiting for his 22nd stage victory on the Tour de France after an incident 26 kilometres from the end of the Epernay to Metz stage left him cast adrift.
The 27-year-old Team Sky cyclist is still one stage win short of drawing level with Lance Armstrong and Andre Darrigade in fourth place in the all-time rankings of stage victors after a major collision split the peloton in two and left him with too much to do.
Sprint ace Peter Sagan won the stage, his third success in six attempts at the Tour de France.
Points classification leader Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) triumphed on the 207.5-kilometre route, which was apparently a straightforward sprint stage, but once again there were spills aplenty, shaking up the general classification.
With a host of riders scattered across the road and in the verge, Cadel Evans' BMC Racing and Team Sky, led by Bradley Wiggins, avoided the carnage unfolding behind them and went in search of the day's four-man breakaway.
After catching the escapees with 1.3km to go, Orica-GreenEdge and Lotto-Belisol were prominent in the finale.
Andre Greipel - seeking to become the 12th rider to win three straight Tour stages - attempted to break clear, but Sagan once again demonstrated his supreme talent to triumph.
Greipel was second, with Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) third, while Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) retained the race leader's yellow jersey by seven seconds from Wiggins.
Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), third in the Tour in 2011, were among those delayed by the large crash.