Valentino Rossi will start his local grand prix at Misano from the front of the field after overcoming the best efforts of Jorge Lorenzo and then Dani Pedrosa for his sixth pole of the 2009 MotoGP season.
Rossi was riding with a smiling image of the donkey's face from the film 'Shrek' painted on top of his helmet - a joke at his own expense for crashing at Indianapolis last Sunday. The fall had marked Rossi's first non-finish since 2007 and means he starts round 13 of 17 with a reduced 25 point lead over Lorenzo.
After battling with Lorenzo for supremacy in the two free practice sessions for the San Marino Grand Prix, the Fiat Yamaha riders exchanged pole continuously from the 10th to 59th minute of qualifying - when Pedrosa suddenly burst ahead of them both.
But Rossi, having made a last-gasp pit stop, returned to take the top spot away from the Repsol Honda rider by 0.222sec, at a track just a few kilometres from his home town of Tavullia. Lorenzo failed to improve on his final lap and was left an unexpectedly large 0.470sec from pole in third.
Gresini Honda's Toni Elias will start from an equal season's best fourth on the grid, with Colin Edwards once again qualifying in fifth for the satellite Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team.
Completing the second row will be Ducati's Nicky Hayden, who was the final rider within one second of Rossi at the Italian factory's second home round.
Alex de Angelis, the only Sammarinese rider on the grid, will start a competitive seventh on the satellite Gresini bike, with Pedrosa's factory Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso eighth during his first qualifying session with Ohlins suspension.
Randy de Puniet, still recovering from an ankle fracture during the summer break, will start ninth for LCR Honda, while Loris Capirossi is sure to be disappointed with tenth for Rizla Suzuki.
Mika Kallio will start his third and final scheduled race of the season for Ducati Marlboro in eleventh, with Marco Melandri twelfth for Hayate and just 0.005sec in front of Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki).
14th for James Toseland was the last thing the Englishman needed at a time when 2010 rides are being assigned, while Aleix Espargaro - who enjoyed an impressive MotoGP debut at Indy and finished a stunning tenth in Saturday morning practice for Pramac Ducati - once again showcased his talent by qualifying 15th, ahead of team-mate Niccolo Canepa and Scot Honda's Gabor Talmacsi.
7. de Angelis
9. de Puniet