Having battled to the final turn in Catalunya, Fiat Yamaha team-mates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo were separated by just 0.214sec during Thursday free practice at Assen.
But both were beaten by the satellite Honda of Randy de Puniet, while Ducati's Casey Stoner - the third rider equal on points with Rossi and Lorenzo at the top of the championship - got between the M1 riders.
That left Rossi in second position by just 0.005sec behind de Puniet, with Lorenzo in fourth place.
“I'm happy about today's practice because I was fast from the start and I could ride the bike how I want,” said Rossi, who will be chasing his 100th grand prix victory on Saturday. “This is very important because it means that the modifications we made in Barcelona are working here too, even though this is a different type of track.
“Now we have one or two small things to fix in order to improve our overall performance and lap time further. Anyway, we're there, second by just a tiny bit and feeling good.”
However, Rossi is concerned that changeable weather might once again influence the results on race day.
“It seems there is a doubt for the weather on Saturday which is a pity; of course I hope it's dry but if it's going to be a wet race then I hope we have the chance for one or two wet laps before the race in warm-up otherwise it will be quite hard,” he added.
Lorenzo, who lost out to Rossi at the end of an epic last lap in Catalunya, played down expectations of repeating the Barcelona battle for more statistical reasons.
“Everyone seems to be expecting another race like we had in Barcelona but I don't think this is something that can happen every time!” he said. “We just have to keep focused and do our best, and hopefully keep our target of getting on the podium again on Saturday.”