Valentino Rossi moved a step closer to claiming his 100th grand prix victory at Assen by claiming a close position for the Dutch TT.

The reigning six time MotoGP world champion had been fastest early in the hour, and returned to the top with ten minutes to go.

Team-mate and title rival Jorge Lorenzo then wrestled the position from him, but Rossi - with Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa in tow - pulled pole back with two minutes remaining, gaining all his time over the #99 in the fast final sector.

The injured Pedrosa was towed to within 0.085sec of Rossi for second on the grid, while Lorenzo's last pole attack was on target until the final sector. Lorenzo, tied with Rossi and Casey Stoner for the world championship lead, was left 0.368sec from Rossi in third position.

Having survived a big rear-wheel slide earlier in the session, Stoner finished the hour in fourth place and furious with a fellow competitor - presumably for blocking. As he returned to the pits, Stoner signalled his frustration as he passed the unseen offender's pit garage, then tapped his helmet with his finger when back in the Ducati pits.

Alex de Angelis was equally angry, the Honda Gresini rider being badly baulked by Loris Capirossi when the Rizla Suzuki rider surprisingly shut off on the exit of the final chicane. As he protested, de Angelis held up Yuki Takahashi. de Angelis will start eleventh, with Capirossi sixth.

Lining up between Stoner and Capirossi will be Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards, on pole with 20 minutes to go, while Chris Vermeulen just missed out on row two with the second GSV-R.

Andrea Dovizioso will be disappointed with eighth on the second factory Honda, while James Toseland was ninth for Tech 3 Yamaha and Thursday pace setter Randy de Puniet tenth for Honda LCR.

Mika Kallio was once again the leading rookie in twelfth for Pramac Ducati, with Nicky Hayden unable to repeat his morning seventh as he recorded 13th on the second factory Desmosedici.

Gabor Talmacsi once again rounded out the field, but was only 0.3sec slower than Scot Honda team-mate Yuki Takahashi after only his second MotoGP qualifying session.

Rain remains a real possibility for Saturday's race.

Qualifying:

1. Rossi
2. Pedrosa
3. Lorenzo
4. Stoner
5. Edwards
6. Capirossi
7. Vermeulen
8. Dovizioso
9. Toseland
10. de Puniet
11. de Angelis
12. Kallio
13. Hayden
14. Melandri
15. Elias
16. Gibernau
17. Canepa
18. Takahashi
19. Talmacsi