Dani Pedrosa took his fourth pole position of the 2010 MotoGP season during a close session at Misano on Saturday.
The Repsol Honda rider, fastest in Friday practice but beaten by world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo in the Saturday morning session, returned to the top by just over 0.3sec from the Fiat Yamaha rider at the end of qualifying - but it had been far closer for most of the hour.
Pedrosa took his third win of the season last weekend at Indianapolis and starts Sunday's twelfth round 68 points behind seven-time 2010 winner Lorenzo.
Completing the front row of the grid will be Ducati's Casey Stoner, who crashed out of last Sunday's race after losing the front end - and suffered yet another lowside fall early in qualifying, just moments after taking provisional pole.
The Australian returned to set a lap time 0.449sec behind Pedrosa.
World champion Valentino Rossi, riding with a special helmet design featuring a clock on the top - he has different helmets with different times showing, to match the start of each session - will start from fourth place, just a fraction ahead of his 2011 factory Yamaha replacement Ben Spies.
Rossi and Lorenzo kept moving ahead of each other as they prepared for a practice start after the session... Rossi laughed about the incident when he watched it again in the pits.
Spies, who took his first MotoGP pole last weekend, was frequently quicker than anyone for most of the lap, only to lose his advantage in the final part of the lap. Nevertheless, the rookie will start as the leading satellite rider one again.
But only just.
Randy de Puniet returned to the kind of performances he had delivered before his leg-breaking Sachsenring fall with sixth place for LCR Honda, with Spies' Monster Yamaha tech 3 team-mate Colin Edwards qualifying at the head of row two in seventh.
Pedrosa's team-mate Andrea Dovizioso will have expected much better than eighth in front of his home fans, while fellow Italians and San Carlo Honda Gresini team-mates Marco Simoncelli and Marco Melandri completed the top ten.
Loris Capirossi took his Rizla Suzuki to eleventh with Aspar Ducati rider Hector Barbra, who joined Stoner in falling during the session, twelfth.
Probably the most disappointed MotoGP rider at Misano on Saturday will be Stoner's team-mate Nicky Hayden, who was left back in 14th (+1.355sec) for Ducati's second home round.
Mika Kallio, whose MotoGP career looks likely to end at Valencia, was 17th and last.
6. de Puniet