The crustal structure of the transition zone between the Eastern Alps and the western part of the Pannonian depression (Danube basin) is traditionally interpreted in terms of subvertical Tertiary strike-slip and normal faults separating different Alpine tectonic units. Reevaluation of approximately 4000-km-long hydrocarbon exploration reflection seismic sections and a few deep seismic profiles, together with data from approximately 300 wells, suggests a different structural model. It implies that extensional collapse of the Alpine orogene in the Middle Miocene was controlled by listric normal faults, which usually crosscut Alpine nappes at shallow levels, but at depth merge with overthrust planes separating the different Alpine units. The alternative structural model was tested along a transect across the Danube basin by gravity model calculations, and the results show that the model of low-angle extensional faulting is indeed viable. Regarding the whole lithosphere of the western Pannonian basin, gravity modelling indicates a remarkable asymmetry in the thickness minima of the attenuated crust and upper mantle. The approximately 160 km lateral offset between the two minima suggests that during the Miocene extension of the Pannonian basin detachment of the upper crust from the mantle lithosphere took place along a rheologically weak lower crust.