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A new formulation of the two-dimensional (2-D) deformable template matching problem is proposed. It uses a lower-dimensional search space than conventional methods by precomputing extensions of the deformable template along orthogonal curves. The reduction in search space allows the use of dynamic programming to obtain globally optimal solutions and reduces the sensitivity of the algorithm to initial placement of the template. Further, the technique guarantees that the result is a curve which does not collapse to a point in the absence of strong image gradients and is always nonself intersecting. Examples of the use of the technique on real-world images and in simulations at low signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) are also provided.