Zagreb: Marcel Hirscher surged back to the top of the overall World Cup standings after securing his third win of the season in the Zagreb floodlit slalom.
The 22-year-old Austrian captured the third slalom victory of his career in a combined time of one minute 51.84 seconds to lead the overall table on 525 points.
Hirscher, who won another slalom in Alta Badia last month and a giant slalom in Beaver Creek earlier in the season, leads Norway`s Aksel Lund Svindal by 69 points.
"If he goes on like this he will be hard to beat for the big globe trophy," overall World Cup champion Ivica Kostelic told reporters.
"He is young, fresh, aggressive but also consistent. He has no doubts," added the 32-year-old Croat after finishing third, 0.48 seconds off the pace.
Germany`s Felix Neureuther was second, 0.29 adrift, as he claimed his second podium finish of the season.
Kostelic, who has been second on three occasions on his home piste, must wait another year to achieve his first win in Zagreb.
"It`s hard to appreciate what a tough race this is for me - the stress and the pressure from all these people," he said. "But it`s one of the highlights of my season."
In front of 20,000 fans, Hirscher`s task was made more difficult by the mild weather producing a quickly deteriorating piste.
Fastest in the first leg, the Austrian started last in the afternoon on a course seriously damaged by ruts and tricky bumps.
"I didn`t believe for a second that I could win in these circumstances," he said. "I went at full gas, at times at 110 percent, but that`s the way I ski.
"My last four starts here were so bad. Three times I didn`t even make it to the finish."
Hirscher and Kostelic will again be among the favourites next weekend in Adelboden, the Swiss resort where the Croat began his incredible haul of seven wins in a month last season.