Outsider Jason Plato led the way amongst the three drivers still in contention for the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship title in qualifying for the season finale at Brands Hatch.
Plato, who goes into race day trailing Colin Turkington by 28 points, came within 0.021secs of securing pole position before being forced to settle for second behind the Focus of Tom Chilton but will line-up ahead of both defending champion Fabrizio Giovanardi and current points leader Colin Turkington for the opening race of the weekend.
Giovanardi was third quickest – just 0.003secs behind Plato – while Turkington will start back in tenth at the wheel of his Team RAC BMW.
2001 title winner Plato has already played down his chances of securing the title for a second time, but with Turkington starting in the middle of the pack, could well bring himself back into contention with a strong showing on race day and he admitted an exciting day lies ahead.
“I messed up with a gear change and that made the difference [for pole], but well done to Tom - he's done a stellar job,” he said. “As for the title, it just looks like it's going to be very exciting, particularly with Colin qualifying back there."
Giovanardi's third place came after a challenging run in practice, after he suffered an issue with his car in the opening session and then went off at Paddock Hill Bend early on in the second session.
The Italian admitted he was surprised to take a place on the second row of the grid but warned that he was expecting Turkington to come through the field on race day.
"I'm a little surprised to be third because I am still learning this circuit,” he said. “It's a good result for the championship for the fans who want to see an exciting show, but I expect Colin to come up the order tomorrow."
Turkington meanwhile, chasing his first BTCC title, admitted he had hoped for more from the session but said he was confident that the BMW would be stronger in the race than in qualifying.
"I'd have liked to have been higher but we've seen before the front-wheel-drive cars put in some really fast qualifying laps and then the rear-wheel-drive BMWs come back in race trim,” he said. “That's obviously what I'm hoping for tomorrow and I know from the earlier practice sessions my car is very well balanced."