Canada's Kevin Reynolds landed three quadruple jumps in the free skate to capture the men's title at the Four Continents championships on Saturday for his first international victory.
The 22-year-old emerged as a threat to countryman Patrick Chan who is due to defend his second consecutive title at the world championships on home ice in London, Ontario, next month.
Chan shunned this event, featuring talent from non-European continents, to focus on the worlds.
Going out from sixth place in the short program overnight and skating to 'Concerto No. 4' by Andre Mathieu, Reynolds topped the free skating table with a personal best 172.21 points for a two-day total of 250.55 points.
Japan's newly crowned national champion and overnight leader Yuzuru Hanyu, 18, finished second overall on 246.38 points.
Yan Han, 16, who became the first Chinese man to become the world junior champion last year, was third on 235.22 in his international senior debut.
'This is completely beyond anything I could have expected... but I knew I was in range for the medal,' Reynolds said.
'I had some under-rotated jumps in the short program. They were fully rotated today, so I am very happy,' the Canadian said, adding he would aim to finish in the top six at the home worlds.
His best world championship finish was 11th in 2010 and he was 12th last year.
In the women's short program, 2008 and 2010 world champion Mao Asada landed a risky triple axel for the first time in two years to lead Japan's 1-2-3 finish.
The 22-year-old, who has swept all four events she took part in earlier in the season, including the Grand Prix Final, earned 74.49 points.
Akiko Suzuki, the 2012 world bronze medallist, trailed in second spot on 65.65 and 2010 world junior champion Kanako Murakami was third on 64.04, going into the final free skate on Sunday.
Asada had refrained from attempting the triple axel so far this season because she frequently bungled the high-scoring jump in the past two seasons, after finishing second to South Korea's Kim Yu-Na at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Kim, also 22, made a competitive comeback in a second-tier event in December but skipped this event to focus on the worlds.