One day after Honda all but lost the 2010 title after Dani Pedrosa broke his collarbone, team-mate Andrea Dovizioso restored some HRC pride by taking his first ever MotoGP pole position at the Honda-owned Motegi circuit on Saturday.
The Italian - who has taken six podiums, including one win, during his near three seasons in the premier-class - claimed pole (and only his second ever front row start) by just 0.054sec from fellow Italian Valentino Rossi, riding in his last Japanese GP for Yamaha.
Second for Rossi marks his first front row since round three at Le Mans, the event before Rossi broke his leg.
Ducati's Casey Stoner made it three manufacturers on the front row, while world champion elect, Jorge Lorenzo, saw his perfect run of 2010 front row starts end when he was demoted to a late fourth.
The Spaniard, who can wrap up the title next Sunday at Sepang, was only 0.205sec from pole on his Fiat Yamaha but clearly unhappy with the result. Lorenzo was confirmed as a factory M1 rider for the next two seasons earlier today.
Overall, Yamaha was the most successful manufacturer in qualifying, with all four of its riders in the top six.
Colin Edwards was the top satellite rider with fifth for Tech 3, just edging out team-mate Ben Spies, who is making his Motegi debut this weekend.
Randy de Puniet had been the fastest non-factory rider until the final minute, when he ran off track and lost ground to the Tech 3 riders.
The Honda LCR pilot will start from seventh, with fellow satellite RCV rider Marco Simoncelli just behind him.
Alvaro Bautista qualified his Rizla Suzuki in ninth place, just ahead of veteran team-mate Loris Capirossi, who fell early in the session and will start tenth.
Nicky Hayden, who took his first podium of the season last time at Aragon, was the second best Ducati rider in eleventh, as only Stoner managed to find pace from his Desmosedici.
Marco Melandri will start his final Japanese MotoGP from twelfth, with home star Hiroshi Aoyama unable to repeat his Friday heroics and dropping to 14th out of the 16 starters.
Pedrosa has returned to Spain for surgery and is likely to miss the three flyaway races.
The Japanese Grand Prix was scheduled to take place in April, but had to be postponed due to the Icelandic volcano grounding flights from Europe.
7. de Puniet