Britain's Stacey Kemp and David King put in a season's best performance in the Olympic figure-skating pairs as Chinese stars Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao led after the short programme at the Pacific Coliseum.
Shen and Zhao, hoping for gold after Olympic bronze medals in 2002 and 2006, took a narrow lead into the free-skating programme over Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy.
Skating first as the lowest-ranked team because of a two-year absence from competition, the Chinese scored 76.66, less than a point ahead of current world No 1 pair Savchenko and Szolkowy, whose routine gave them a season's best 75.96.
The European and Russian champions Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov lay in third on 74.16 followed by two other Chinese pairs, Qing Pang and Jian Tong, the 2006 world champions, on 71.50 and reigning Olympic silver medallists Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang on 71.28.
Canadian medal hopes suffered a blow when Jessica Dube fell early in her routine with Bryce Davison. Dube and Davison, the 2008 world bronze medallists, nonetheless scored a season's best 65.36 to lie sixth, with compatriots Cody Hay and Anabelle Langlois next on 64.20.
Skating to Linkin Park's "Numb", Britain's King, 25, and Kemp, 21, beat their season's best of 45.26 with a score of 48.28 to finish the short programme in 16th place.
The pair, who are ranked 17th in the world and train in Poland with coaches Dorota and Mariusz Siudek, were happy to have reached the culmination of five years' skating as a pair.
"We enjoyed it, and that's the key," King said. "We're here at the Olympics, we've been doing this for five years and we just wanted to do this one programme good and it came off so we're really happy.
"The throws looked good but some of the levels weren't there so we weren't holding the positions but that can be improved. But overall it went great.
"Internationally this year our scores haven't been what we've been looking for, so we just wanted to come here and do our very best."
Preston-born Kemp echoed her partner, adding: "We just wanted to get a personal best and it definitely gives us confidence for the free."