Figure skating champions Cappellini, Lanotte lead worlds dance
Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte perform during the ice dance short dance competition at the world figure skating championships in Saitama, on March 28, 2014 - by Kazuhiro Nogi
Dancing the quickstep and the foxtrot, the Italian duo collected 69.70 points, 0.50 point better than Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.
France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, the 2011 and 2012 European champions, trailed in third place at 68.20 points, ahead of the final free dance on Saturday.
"We're really happy especially because it's the last time we're dancing and we were able to pull out the best performance of the year," said Cappellini.
Asked about their title hope, the 27-year-old said with a smile, "We will try."
"It's always important for us to improve what we did the last time. And we will try to make it happen again tomorrow."
Russia's Olympic bronze medallists Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov lay in fifth at 65.67 despite being billed as favourites in the absence of Olympic and world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States, and Canadian runners-up Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
Katsalapov lost his balance and stopped in the middle of a synchronised twizzle, earning no points for that element.
The Italians finished fourth at last year's world championships and sixth at the Sochi Olympics last month.
Weaver, who finished seventh in Sochi with Poje, also vowed to go all out in their free dance which she called "our secret weapon."
"So wherever the chips fall we are going to put out a strong free dance tomorrow and let everything else take care of itself."
The French duo, fourth in Sochi, postponed their retirement until after the worlds.
Pechalat, 30, said: "We thought to end our career in Japan is a good idea because we want to get a beautiful medal before leaving."
"We'll fight tomorrow. We'll give it all and we have a winning free dance," declared Katsalapov.
He recalled the couple started well with the twizzle. "Even if we did a mistake in the twizzle, but not like that."