Just five days after a disastrous first turn accident in Australia looked to all but end his title hopes, Jorge Lorenzo was back on top of the MotoGP timesheets during Friday free practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
Lorenzo hit the top of the timesheets during the final five minutes of the hour to eventually finish just 0.064sec ahead of Phillip Island winner Casey Stoner (Ducati).
Lorenzo's Fiat Yamaha team-mate and title leader Valentino Rossi - who can wrap up his seventh MotoGP crown with fourth place, even if Lorenzo wins on Sunday - began the session with confidence, but was toppled by Stoner just after the midway point and eventually faded back to fourth behind Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa (+0.578sec Lorenzo).
The reigning world champion concluded the hour a sizable 0.684sec behind Lorenzo - who needs to take at least 14 points from Rossi's 38 point lead to take the title to the final round at Valencia.
Andrea Dovizioso, who took the only podium of his rookie season at Sepang last year, broke into the top four by displacing team-mate Pedrosa with 19 minutes to go, but dropped back to fifth at the flag, as the final rider within one-second of Lorenzo.
After Suzuki's Phillip Island nightmare, Loris Capirossi put his GSV-R a competitive sixth at a circuit where he set the third fastest lap time - a fraction behind Stoner and Rossi - during pre-season testing.
Toni Elias used his late braking skills at the end of Sepang's long straights to be the top satellite rider in seventh position for Gresini Honda, ahead of Stoner's factory Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden and an unusually low-placed Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha).
Chris Vermeulen was 1.5sec from Lorenzo on the second Suzuki, on a day when all eight factory riders finished in the top ten.
Niccolo Canepa, who injured his arm in Friday practice at Phillip Island, has been replaced by Aleix Espargaro this weekend.
The Spaniard - who rode for the team twice earlier in the season, in place of Mika Kallio, and has already signed for Pramac for 2010 - was 17th and last on Friday, although just 0.047sec behind Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda).
12. de Angelis
14. de Puniet