Twotime World Cup 3000m champion Craig Mottram of Australia was the major casualty of the heats, although Kenenisa Bekele remains on track to land the Olympic 5000m and 10,000m double and World champion Bernard Lagat began the first stage of his redemption after being surprisingly dumped out of the semi-finals of the 1500m.
As fate would have it, the trio all clashed in the third and final of the three heats which was inexplicably run at a slow pace - even knowing what they needed to do to secure the three next fastest times.
Still, no matter. The race burst into life with 600m remaining when James Kwalia of Qatar sprinted to the front to begin his qualification bid in earnest.
By the bell Kwalia had stolen a significant march on the field and led by 15m from a chasing group of four which included - Mottram, Lagat, Bekele and Kenya's Thomas Longosiwa.
By the beginning of the back straight, however, the Australian had lost contact with the group and dropped out of contention for a place in the final.
A fading Kwalia was caught in the home straight by a fresh looking Lagat, who will be delighted with the manner in which he responded after his 1500m disappointment. Lagat took the heat win in 13:39.70 - 0.26 ahead of Kwalia. Bekele, looking cool as a cucumber, qualified easily in third (13:40.13) with Longosiwa fourth in 13:41.30.
Mottram missed out on one of the fastest loser spots, a bitterly disappointed fifth in 13.44.39.
Seven men qualified from Heat One, including former World champion Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopia's World Indoor 3000m champion Tariku Bekele, younger brother of Kenenisa.
However, it was heat winner Matt Tegenkamp who was the most impressive qualifier.
Ireland's Alistair Cragg, Kipchoge and Aadam Khamis of Bahrain all took turns at the front to ensure a healthy pace, although seven athletes were still in contention at the bell.
The familiar last lap burn up saw Kipchoge and Bekele enter the home straight in control. However, Tegenkamp, the US trials runner-up, burst through the middle of the African duo to take the win in 13:37.36.
Kipchoge crossed the line second in 13:37.50 with Bekele 0.13 back in third. Kidane Tadesse of Eritrea edged fourth by 0.13 in 13:37.72. Spain's Aelemayehu Bezabeh (13:37.88), Cragg (13:38.57) and Juan Luis Barrios of Mexico (13:42.39) in fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, all advanced to Saturday's final as the three fastest losers.
The chief protagonists also progressed from Heat Two as Kenya's Edwin Soi took victory in 13:46.41.
Uganda's Moses Kipsiso, the 2007 World bronze medallist, and Great Britain's Mo Farah shared the lead for much of the race, although at the bell World Junior champion Abreham Cherkos led a group of seven in the fight for the top four places.
Cherkos, Soi, Kipsiro and Jesus Espana, the European champion from Spain, quickly moved into the four automatic positions and Ali Abdalla of Eritrea and Farah dropped off the back.
Coming down the home straight it was Soi who showed the most impressive pace to win 0.17 ahead of Kipsiro.
Cherkos finished third in 13:47.60 with Espana fourth in 13:48.88. There was disappointment, however, for Abdulla in fifth (13:49.68) and Farah (13:50.95) sixth, who exited the competition.
Steve Landells for the IAAF