EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., FEB. 8 -- Noureddine Morceli, the sensational 20-year-old Algerian, fell just short in his bid to break the world indoor record for the mile tonight in the Meadowlands Invitational.

Morceli's performance overshadowed the effort of George Mason University's Istvan Bagyula in the pole vault. The Hungarian set a national collegiate indoor record of 19 feet 0 1/4 inches.

Morceli, taking part in only his fifth indoor race, was given the impetus he needed by Air Force Lt. Mike Michno, who paced him through the first half-mile in 1 minute 54.8 seconds.

But after Michno dropped out with just over four laps remaining in the 10-lap race, Morceli was left to race against the clock.

He failed to better Eamonn Coghlan's record of 3 minutes 49.78 seconds, set here in 1983. But Morceli's 3:50.81 was the third-fastest mile indoors and made him the No. 2 performer of all time. Only the Irishman's record effort and his clocking of 3:50.60 in San Diego in 1981 are better.

Ireland's Marcus O'Sullivan, the two-time world indoor champion at 1,500 meters and a three-time winner here, finished a distant second in 3:56.75.

Andre Cason, having already established himself as the top indoor sprinter this season, rolled to his fourth straight victory, taking the 55-meter dash in 6.18 seconds.

Diane Dixon, the women's overall leader in this season's Mobil Grand Prix, raced to her fifth straight victory and a meet-record eighth triumph in the women's 400 meters in 52.58.

Hollis Conway, who beat world record-holder Javier Sotomayor of Cuba in the high jump last week at the Mobil 1 Invitational at George Mason, did it again tonight. Conway cleared 7-7 3/4, with Sotomayor second at 7-6 1/2.