Giancarlo Fisichella was the biggest name to miss out on a berth in the second phase of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, but there were close calls for several others.
Fisichella improved to 16th on his final run of the 20-minute session, but was still a couple of tenths too slow to progress any further, and joined Kazuki Nakajima, Romain Grosjean, Tonio Liuzzi and the absent Mark Webber on the sidelines.
Nakajima looked good to make it through until midway around his final lap, coming up shot and allowing a ragged Heikki Kovalainen to escape even before he crossed the line to move from 15th to twelfth. Grosjean and Liuzzi never threatened the top 15, while Webber didn't even start after crashing in practice and leaving Red Bull Racing to build a new car for Sunday's race.
While Sebastian Vettel took the fastest time of the session, duelling with Jarno Trulli for top spot early on, it was Red Bull stablemate Sebastien Buemi who caught the eye, banging in the fifth fastest lap with his only effort after crashing at Degner on his first flier and damaging the rear wing on his Toro Rosso entry.
Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Trulli completed the top five, but only after both Brawn drivers had flirted with the drop zone.