A broken collarbone for Jorge Lorenzo's only remaining MotoGP title rival, Dani Pedrosa, has put the Fiat Yamaha rider on the brink of his first premier-class crown.
Pedrosa sustained the injury in the opening minutes of Friday practice at Motegi and, while Lorenzo cannot mathematically win the title this weekend, it would take a disastrous set of circumstances for the #99 not to be crowned the second ever Spanish 500cc/MotoGP champion.
Lorenzo already holds a 56 point advantage over Pedrosa with five rounds to go, which means his first title chance will come next weekend at Sepang.
Should Lorenzo finish that race 76 points or more ahead of Pedrosa, who looks set to undergo surgery and miss the next three races, he will be champion.
However Lorenzo, who struggled in the immediate aftermath of Valentino Rossi's leg-breaking injury at Mugello this year, insists he isn't counting the points just yet.
"I don't want to think for now how Dani's situation will affect me, but I am sorry for him, it's very bad luck to be injured at this stage of the season," he said.
Lorenzo was third fastest in Friday practice, behind Rossi and Pedrosa's Repsol Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso.
Rossi, who was 0.3sec ahead of Lorenzo, used an upgraded M1 engine that the Mallorcan - who has one less engine left from his allocation than the Italian - is likely to try later in the weekend.
"We are much better here than in Aragon, which is a relief!" said Lorenzo, whose podium streak came to an end with fourth place at Aragon.
"I don't have the new engine yet like Valentino, I hope we can use it soon, but anyway here we lose much less in the straight here compared to at the last race and we have better acceleration.
"We can improve the traction a bit in some parts of the track but in general this was a good day and we are not so far off Valentino. I hope the rain stays away so we can continue to improve tomorrow."
"Firstly I want to say that we are really sorry for Dani and we wish him all the best," added team manager Wilco Zeelenberg.
"Valentino was using the new engine and it looks very good, so we are looking forward to being able to use it soon as well.
"Tomorrow we need to find a little bit more rear grip but all in all we have a good rhythm and the bike is feeling good for Jorge."