The San Marino Grand Prix weekend looked in danger of being completely dominated by Fiat Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo - until Dani Pedrosa popped onto pole in the final minute of qualifying.
The Repsol Honda rider, third behind the M1 riders in both free practice sessions, held the top spot for less than a minute before being relegated by local hero Rossi, but still clung to second ahead of Lorenzo.
Although unable to match the title contenders for speed on the harder race tyre Pedrosa, who fell from the lead while trying to hold off Rossi and Lorenzo last Sunday at Indianapolis, still looks set for a strong race.
Indeed, the Spaniard is hoping that further progress will allow him to once again interfere with the Fiat Yamaha riders during the grand prix.
“It's great to get a front row start here and we weren't far away from pole position which is a good result from this afternoon because our rivals are very strong again here,” said Pedrosa. “During the session we were working on race set-up and we still have a little way to go to improve my race pace and consistency compared to the others.
“In qualifying I was able to up my speed towards the end and I was pushing really hard because it's very important to get on the front row here and give yourself the best chance of a clean getaway.
“It's sure to be an exciting race tomorrow and I hope we can find that little bit extra so we can challenge for the win again. It's likely to be a tough race because it was hot and windy today, but I'm looking forward to it - the atmosphere is sure to be special,” he concluded.
Home star Andrea Dovizioso will start two rows behind Pedrosa after clocking the eighth fastest time during his first qualifying session with Ohlins suspension.
“I have a good pace with race tyres, and we improved the rhythm and reduced the gap to the front riders this afternoon which I'm pleased about," said the Italian. "We are six tenths behind with our race pace and quite close to Dani so I was happy about this.
"Unfortunately I couldn't go fast enough with the soft tyre and so my starting position is not what I wanted. I'm disappointed about that because it could compromise the race and it means I really have to make a good start and try to recover positions right from the beginning.
"It won't be easy as it's tricky to overtake in the first corners because you have a group of bikes all going through together. But still, I think we've been making progress with the set-up and the potential from our package is good.”