Casey Stoner kept Ducati's dream of finally winning its home Italian Grand Prix very much alive by qualifying second on the grid, just 0.021sec from Jorge Lorenzo's pole position.
The young Australian had been fastest in Saturday morning practice, but also suffered a small fall, and felt 'frustrated' that he hadn't done better.
But the 2007 world champion is still two places higher than Mugello legend Valentino Rossi, winner for the last seven years, and looks like the only rider capable of battling the Yamahas of Rossi and Lorenzo for victory on Sunday.
"We had a great free practice session this morning despite the crash and I was very comfortable with the bike, so I was optimistic about this afternoon,” said Stoner.
“Unfortunately as we picked up the pace in the afternoon we found some problems with the front and I couldn't make the bike turn as I wanted it to. You spend a lot of time on the edge of the tyre through the long corners at this circuit and that is where we're losing time.
“We'll see if we can change a couple of things and improve the bike before the warm-up tomorrow. Second place on the grid is obviously a great position but I know we could have done a lot better so I can't help but feel frustrated. It also makes me look forward to tomorrow even more because I can't wait to get back out on track!"
But while Stoner was fighting for pole, team-mate Nicky Hayden was fighting to avoid last place. The American's best lap was almost two seconds slower than Stoner and he finished ahead of only satellite Ducati rider Mika Kallio.
“I know we're in the same position on the time sheets, worse in fact, but actually the feeling with the bike got better as the session went on this afternoon and the lap time improved quite a lot from the morning,” said the 2006 world champion.
“My pace through T1 is acceptable but I'm the slowest guy out there through T3 so that's what we'll be focusing on tonight I think.
“We still have a big gap to make up and we need to make a major step if want to be competitive but anything can happen at this track. We've got many Engineers here from Bologna so hopefully they can help me out a bit,” he added.