Abstract Higher-level relationships of the basal Euteleostei (=Protacanthopterygii) are so complex and controversial that at least nine different morphology-based phylogenetic hypotheses have been proposed during the last 30 years. Relationships of the Protacanthopterygii were investigated using mitochondrial genomic (mitogenomic) data from 34 purposefully chosen species (data for 12 species being newly determined during the study) that fully represented major basal euteleostean lineages and some basal teleosts plus neoteleosts as outgroups. Unweighted and weighted maximum parsimony (MP) and maximum likelihood (ML) analyses were conducted with the data set that comprised concatenated nucleotide sequences from 12 protein-coding genes (excluding the ND6 gene and 3rd codon positions) and 22 transfer RNA (tRNA) genes (stem regions only) from the 34 species. The resultant trees were well resolved and largely congruent, with most internal branches being supported by high statistical values. Monophyly of the protacanthopterygians was confidently rejected by the mitogenomic data. Of the five major monophyletic groups that received high statistical support within the protacanthopterygians, a clade comprising members of the alepocephaloids was unexpectedly nested within the Otocephala, sister-group of the euteleosts. The remaining four major monophyletic groups, on the other hand, occupied phylogenetic positions intermediate between the otocephalans and neoteleosts, with a clade comprising esociforms + salmoniforms being more basal to the argentinoids and osmeroids. Although interrelationships of the latter two clades (argentinoids and osmeroids) with the neoteleosts remained ambiguous, the present results indicated explicitly that the protacanthopterygians as currently defined merely represent a collective, polyphyletic group of the basal euteleosts, located between the basal teleosts (elopomorphs and below) and neoteleosts (stomiiforms and above).