Elsewhere on the second morning at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium, defending champion and favourite Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce eased through the opening heats of the women’s 100 metres in a very comfortable 10.
“Today is just about getting through the rounds,” she said, sporting long green hair and a sunflower headband.
The champion was joined in Monday’s semi-finals by a nervous American contender Tori Bowie (10.88), who put down a marker by easily beating former Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown (11.04) of Jamaica in the opening heat.
“I wanted to stay relaxed. This is my first major championships and I came out here extremely nervous today,” Bowie said after a quick heat time.
The experienced duo of Olympic champion Kirani James (44.56 seconds) of Grenada and U.S. world champion LaShawn Merritt (44.51) barely strained as they safely negotiated the men’s 400m heats.
“I handled business like I was supposed to in the first round,” Merritt said. “I was a little conservative, but just enough to win. I know what to do in these championships.”
Prodigious American talent Shamier Little endured a tricky opening heat in the women’s 400m hurdles, though, with the world junior champion just slipping through to the semi-finals in fourth after losing her stride on the home stretch.
American Joe Kovacs finished top of the shot put qualifiers with a throw of 21.36 metres, just ahead of double world champion David Storl (21.26) of Germany with the final later on Sunday.
The morning drama, though, came in the heptathlon where Johnson-Thompson, an excellent long jumper, had trailed Ennis-Hill by 80 points in second place and was looking for a big jump to aid her quest for gold only for her keenness to result in three fouls and no points.
The British team appealed the narrow decision on the 22-year-old’s third jump but later withdrew the protest after viewing all evidence, ending her medal hopes.
Dutchwoman Nadine Broersen moved second after a javelin throw of 53.52 metres in the penultimate discipline, with Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, the 2013 silver medallist and wife of decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton, third on 5612 points.
Ennis-Hill, who gave birth to her son 13 months ago, offered 42.51m in the javelin and with 5705 points, will take an 86-point lead in to the last event, the 800 metres, in a Sunday evening session headlined by the battle between Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin for men’s 100m gold.
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)