Goergl, the 2011 world champion in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, was the last Austrian winner of a downhill almost exactly two years ago, also on home snow in Bad Kleinkirchheim.
Hampered by health problems, she has struggled for form since and started with the number 28 bib on her back as Fenninger was ready to celebrate her first downhill victory.
But the honours finally went to the 32-year-old skier fondly known at home as "Lizz", who won in one minute and 47.45 seconds, beating her 24-year-old compatriot by 0.56 seconds.
"To be honest I'm a little bit surprised myself but it's a piste that suits me and I went for it with boldness and no pressure," Goergl told reporters after her fifth World Cup victory.
Vonn's announcement this week that she would not defend her title in Sochi due to injury has left the race for Olympic gold wide open.
Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch, winner of the two downhills held in Lake Louise in December was a solid third, 0.63 adrift ahead of in-form Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein.
Nicole Hosp, the erratic 2007 World Cup champion, completed the Austrian recovery in fifth place.
The other two winners of a downhill this season are Swiss Lara Gut and Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden, who finishes 11th and 8th in Altenmarkt.
But experience is on Goergl's side as she won two bronze medals in Vancouver four years ago and proved that the Garmisch worlds, where she sang a song at the opening ceremony before winning two golds, had not been her swansong.
- Sports & Recreation