Rudolf Nierlich of Austria edged Italian star Alberto Tomba in winning a World Cup slalom race for the first time Sunday at Wengen, Switzerland, and Luxembourg's Marc Girardelli virtually clinched his third overall title.
Nierlich was timed in 1 minute 35.90 seconds for two runs down the tricky, steep washboard slope, in beating Tomba by .02. Another Austrian, Hubert Strolz, was third, in 1:37.60.
The Austrian-born Girardelli, who broke course records in winning downhills Friday and Saturday, was fourth in 1:37.75 with a brilliant second-heat performance.
The fourth place, together with Saturday's downhill victory, gave Girardelli the combined title based on the results in both.
"Today's second heat was the most difficult I have ever skied in my 10-year career," Girardelli said of the run over hard-packed snow brought from nearby glaciers in 400 helicopter flights because of warm temperatures.
"You see the World Cup champion of the 1988-89 season," a Swiss television announcer said during Girardelli's second run. Girardelli, who has 306 points, more than he needed to win in 1985 and 1986, wasn't ready to claim the title.
He was dethroned in 1987 by Pirmin Zurbriggen of Switzerland, the defending champion who finished out of the point standings in the slalom but placed second in the combined. Zurbriggen is second with 231 points and Tomba is far back in third place with 133 points.
Bernhard Knauss of Austria won for the second straight day on the U.S. Pro Ski Tour by taking the slalom title on Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Ore.
Knauss defeated Werner Herzog, also of Austria, in the finals, with Joakim Wallner of Switzerland beating Tomaz Cerkovnik of Yugoslavia to take third place.
"You can't compare World Cup racing to this, but I do feel confident in the slalom right now," said Knauss, who has won 3 of his 5 pro races since leaving the World Cup circuit earlier this season. "I really like it. I'm glad I'm here."
Phil Mahre, who finished second to Knauss in the giant slalom on Saturday, was beaten again by the Austrian, in the quarterfinals.
Niklas Lindqvist and Jorgen Sundqvist, both of Sweden, are tied atop the season standings with 200 points, while Mahre is third at 195. Herzog, who finished fourth on Saturday, is fourth in the standings with 155 points.
Steve Mahre, Phil's brother, fell on his second run and was eliminated in the preliminary rounds. He remained ninth in the overall standings with 110 points.