Sam Weale's hopes of making the Great Britain modern pentathlon team at the London Olympics look all but over after he failed to reach the final at the World Championships in Rome.
The 30-year-old from Yeovil went into the event as the third British athlete in the rankings behind Nick Woodbridge and Jamie Cooke, and with it all to do to make one of the two spots available at the Games.
Chasing a top-12 place to qualify, he went into the final event, the combined run and shoot, in 11th spot but dropped two places, crossing the line an agonising six seconds short of his target.
There were no problems for Woodbridge in the same semi-final, with the Shropshire athlete never dropping out of the top four, while world junior champion Cooke put this season's poor form behind him with a terrific display in semi-final B.
The 21-year-old is the only British man so far to have achieved the Olympic qualifying standard courtesy of his fourth place at the European Championships last year, but he has struggled with fencing in particular this season.
However, he matched his customary fast swim with the best fence of the day by a British athlete and crossed the line at the head of the field in his semi-final alongside double Olympic champion Andrei Moiseev.
Attention turns to the battle among Britain's women to gain ascendancy in the race for Olympic spots on Saturday, with Mhairi Spence, Heather Fell, Samantha Murray and Freyja Prentice all competing in the final.