Usain Bolt ran his fastest time of the season to win his Olympic 200m semi-final in 19.78 seconds as Justin Gatlin missed out on a place in the final.
Jamaica’s Bolt has already won the 100m and is now aiming for an eighth Olympic gold by retaining his 200m title.
But American Gatlin, who won silver behind Bolt in the 100m final, only finished third in his semi-final.
Britain’s Adam Gemili, 22, reached Thursday’s final (02:30 BST, Friday) as one of two fastest losers.
Gatlin, 34, banned twice for doping offences, clocked 20.13 and failed to progress along with another big name – Yohan Blake.
The Jamaican, who won silver behind Bolt in London four years ago, has been hampered by injury over the past couple of years and faded to finish sixth in 20.37 seconds.
LaShawn Merritt, who has run 19.74 this year, is likely to pose the biggest challenge to Bolt in the final.
But Bolt believes he can break his world record of 19.19 and could even go under 19 seconds in the final.
“I definitely think I can try for the world record, I definitely feel that,” he said. “I need to run efficiently and get into the straight and run the perfect race.”
Bolt said he would have a better chance of achieving his goal to run under 19 seconds if he gets a high lane, adding: “If I get a lower lane it’s always harder for me to run the corner when it is tighter.”
On Gatlin’s exit, Bolt told BBC Radio 5 live: “Everybody’s in shock. You can tell from the 100m he’s getting old. It’s a fact the older you get, the rougher it gets to double.
“Next year if I go to the World Championships [in London] I’m not going to double. I’m going to do the 100m and that is it.”
‘Lazy’ Bolt eases into final
Bolt has won all seven of his previous Olympic finals, claiming gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
Here, the 29-year-old was laughing as he crossed the line just two hundredths of a second ahead of Canada’s Andre de Grasse.
“Andre was supposed to slow down. He didn’t,” he joked.
“I said: ‘What are you doing, it is the semis?’ He said he had to push me.
“I was a bit lazy, I don’t know why, but I executed it.”
Gatlin falls short again
Gatlin is a divisive figure in athletics, having returned to the sport after serving two bans.
He claimed Olympic bronze at London 2012 and silver behind Bolt in the 2015 World Championships.
After missing out on 100m gold on Sunday, he fell short in the 200m after appearing to lose focus when he glanced across the track 60 metres from the finish.
Gatlin, who ran 19.75 last month – the second fastest time of the year, said afterwards he had been hampered by an ankle injury.
“I’m happy to still be here for the relays,” he said. “My ankle is giving me a lot of problems. I can’t run properly and I had a tight turn in lane three.”
Gemili determined to ‘push on’
Gemili, 22, was third in 20.08, with his place in the final confirmed following the third semi-final.
“I really tightened up. I’m in a lot better shape than 20.08. I was really disappointed seeing that,” he said.
“But that’s a good thing I suppose that I’m not satisfied with that and I will go and push on.”
His team-mate Danny Talbot clocked a personal best 20.25, the same time as Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, but it was not enough for either to go through.
The top two in each semi-final qualified automatically, along with the two fastest losers.
Michael Johnson, four-time Olympic gold medallist on BBC One:
“Adam Gemili got really tight at the end – his shoulders were up high and that makes it really tough.
“It was an interesting run by Usain Bolt, he got out fast and quick and let off a bit. De Grasse decided he was going to have a bit of fun and go and get him.
“Gatlin made a bit of a mistake. He relaxed. He didn’t realise the others were upon him and then he tried to get back into it but you can’t do that with the class of this field.
“That was a huge mistake and he will know it. A very strange race.”