Gisin's victory, with her combined time of two minutes, 20.90 almost a second ahead of pre-race favorite Shiffrin, completed a rare Olympic double for her family after elder sister Dominique won the downhill in Sochi four years ago. With the sun darting in and out and a light snow falling for the slalom, the artificial lights lining the course were switched on.
Gisin claimed gold with a combined time of 2:20.90, while Shiffrin finished 0.97 seconds back for silver.
Her downhill run looked so commanding, the Vonn of old as she fearlessly set a time 0.74 seconds ahead of the chasing pack.
No one near the top of the leader board after the first downhill run is ranked in the top 15 of the World slalom standings.
The much-vaunted United States stars were both looking to put some gloss on a mixed Games, with Shiffrin winning gold in the giant slalom but finishing fourth in her preferred slalom, and Vonn settling for bronze in the downhill. As she acknowledged Friday, she thought she was a contender in three: GS, slalom and super-combined.
Shiffrin, who won the giant slalom gold in Pyeongchang but could only finish fourth in her favoured slalom, was nearly a second back, while another Swiss racer, Wendy Holdener, claimed bronze.
"I knew I had to risk everything", said Vonn, who won downhill bronze in midweek. "I hope tomorrow I can maybe pull something out of the hat".
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Her silver would turn to bronze when Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway turned in a surprise silver-medal run as the 19th racer on the course.
Vonn, who will start last in the slalom, also led after the downhill leg at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Watching at the bottom of the hill, Kildow broke into wry grin moments after Vonn crossed the finish line.09 seconds behind Italy's Sofia Goggia, who won the gold.
She also won the giant slalom in Pyeongchang a week ago. "I used to win slaloms but now my body doesn't cooperate with me as much as I would like".
She's rallying for one more run these Games. "Lots of downs I'd say, especially from 2013 to now", she said. "So that's the extent my slalom training this year".
"I'm so thankful to be here, to be on the podium in what is likely to me my last Olympic downhill race", the USA great told reporters.
Zoi Sadowski Synnott earned bronze to give New Zealand its first Winter Olympic medal in 26 years. She missed the 2014 Sochi Games because of injury. "But you know I'm here and I'm on the Olympic podium again".
Vonn has been through a lot, and she's been very open about her struggles.
"It feels awesome", she said. Yeah, you know, after I blew out my knee for the second time, my family said, "Well, you know, Lindsey, don't you think it's time now to just call it a day?" Because I wouldn't be the same person that I am today. "I love what I do", Vonn said. I think later I'll reflect on how much my teammates and my coaches made it special for me. "She approaches ski racing so differently to everyone else".