Holders Russia survived their toughest test of the 2009 Ice Hockey World Championship when they beat hosts Switzerland 4-2 on Tuesday.
Canada, the other leading contenders for the title, demolished Slovakia 7-3, while Hungary and Germany were dispatched to the relegation playoffs although the latter cannot go down.
Alexei Morozov claimed the decisive goal with 11:32 left following a give-and-go with Ilya Kovalchuk to give Russia their third successive win as they finished top of Group B.
Kovalchuk finished with a goal and two assists, while Vitali Atyushov and Alexander Perezhogin also scored for Russia.
Atyushov put Russia ahead after 2:19 but the Swiss outshot their opponents 13-6 in the first period and finished 2-1 ahead after Ryan Gardner and Martin Pluss scored powerplay goals off Ivo Ruthemann assists.
Kovalchuk leveled with a wrist shot under the crossbar after 9:08 of the second period. After Morozov made it 3-2 in the third frame, Oleg Saprykin hit the post from close range and Perezhogin made the game safe with 15 seconds left after dispossessing an opponent to score an empty-net goal.
France beat Germany 2-1 in Group B to leave their opponents point-less in three games and send them into the relegation section.
Hungary, returning to the top flight for the first time in 70 years, were also condemned to the relegation round after an unlucky 3-1 defeat by Belarus in Group A in Zurich.
After losing 4-3 to Slovakia in the last few minutes, Hungary suffered more heartache when Belarus tallied twice in the last five minutes of a game which could have gone either way. Alexei Ugarov scored with a backhand shot and Mikhail Grabovski added a late empty netter to condemn Hungary to their third consecutive defeat.
Canada made no mistake as they thumped Slovakia for their third easy win in as many Group A games.
The top three in each four-team group proceed to the qualification round, consisting of two groups of six, while the four last-placed sides take part in a single group to avoid relegation.
The bottom two go down to division one next year. However, as Germany host next year’s event, they are guaranteed to stay in the top flight. Should the Germans finish third or fourth, the second-placed side would be relegated in their place.