From the seventh minute of Saturday's Aragon MotoGP qualifying session onwards, only two riders held provisional pole - Casey Stoner or Dani Pedrosa.
The top spot changed between them four times, and was ultimately decided in Stoner's favour when Pedrosa ran wide on his final lap - while 0.2sec under Stoner's best.
The mistake not only cost Pedrosa pole but also second on the grid, to title leader Jorge Lorenzo. Nevertheless, the Repsol Honda rider was satisfied to start on the front row of the grid as he seeks his third MotoGP victory in a row on Sunday.
“I'm happy to be on the front row as this was our main target for this afternoon's session," said the Spaniard. "I just made a little mistake and ran wide on my last fast lap when I was going well and was 0.2s ahead, so I think pole position could have been possible, but the front row is the important thing.
"So now we must just stay focused and get a good start because the first corner is quite near to the start line which means it will be important to get a clean run into there. It's a new track where we haven't raced before so the main question is how the tyres will work over a full race distance.
"Our performance over the last few races has been great and I want to try as hard as possible for the victory here. Everyone has come into this weekend with a blank sheet of paper so maybe it could be one of the most open races of the season," claimed Pedrosa, beaten by countryman Lorenzo at their two previous home rounds this year.
Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso never quite found a satisfactory set-up and had to settle for eighth place and the middle of the third row.
“Our race pace is reasonable, but to be honest I'm not very happy with the session, and starting from the third row is not where we wanted to be," admitted the Italian. "It's difficult because we're lacking some speed and we haven't narrowed it down to one particular problem. So we need to look at the data and try to analyse what changes we can make for the warm-up tomorrow.
"We need to improve our speed in the centre of the corners and also the fluidity of the handling. For the race our pace is not so bad but starting from the third row is a handicap - especially because the first corner is very slow and so you cannot easily recover positions there. Still, we've proved previously that we can have good a race from this position and that's what we'll try to do again.”