World record holder Mondo Duplantis soared to a season-leading 6.03m in Rouen on Saturday, edging out rival and former Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie on his home ground.
Duplantis, 21, easily cleared the height before attempting an ambitious assault on his own world record of 6.18m.
However, he failed at 6.19m despite the loud encouragement of his rivals, whose enthusiasm made up for the empty stands in the arena.
"I am happy to be in front," said Duplantis, destined to be one of the headline stars at the Tokyo Olympics later this year.
"But you have to be close to perfect to get a world record."
Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist who is the Swede's senior by 13 years, failed with three attempts to get over six metres.
He had succeeded with 6.02 at Tourcoing in France last weekend.
"You have to manage the recovery from last week and get the rhythm of the competition," said the French athlete who finished in a tie for second with Christopher Nielsen of the United States on 5.93m.
"It would have been nice to repeat six metres again today.
"But we are only at the beginning of February - there is still time to continue to climb."
America's Sam Kendricks, the 2017 and 2019 world champion, was fourth on Saturday with 5.83m.
1. Mondo Duplantis (SWE) 6.03m, 2. Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) 5.93m, .Christopher Nielsen (USA) 5.93m, 4. Sam Kendricks (USA) 5.83m, 5. Jacob Wooten (USA) 5.73m, .Ethan Cormont (FRA) 5.73m
1. Holly Bradshaw (GBR) 4.85m, 2. Iryna Zhuk (BLR) 4.62m, 3. Alysha Newman (CAN) 4.62m, 4. Eleni-Klaoudia Polak (GRE) 4.62m, 5. Tina Sutej (SLO) 4.62m