Marco Simoncelli extended his run of top-two MotoGP qualifying performances to five in a row, by taking his second pole position at Assen on Friday.
The San Carlo Honda Gresini rider, fastest in both free practice sessions prior to qualifying, held onto pole by just 0.009sec from Yamaha's Ben Spies - who claimed his first front row start of the season despite sitting out the final minutes.
Both Simoncelli and Spies have crashed out of three of the six races this year, with the Italian still in search of a first MotoGP podium.
Completing the front row will be world championship leader Casey Stoner, whose Repsol Honda lapped 0.290sec slower than Simoncelli after struggling to generate tyre heat, with Yamaha's reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo 0.425sec from pole in fourth.
Andrea Dovizioso, who injured his tow in morning practice, qualified in fifth place, with Cal Crutchlow continuing his excellent comeback weekend with sixth for Monster Yamaha Tech 3.
The English rookie, who badly broke his collarbone almost two weeks' ago at Silverstone, had been third with less than a minute to go. Crutchlow, like Spies, has experience of Assen from WSBK.
Crutchlow's fellow rookie Karel Abraham celebrated his newly announced 2012 deal with seventh position - and was the leading Ducati rider.
Factory star Valentino Rossi had put his new GP11.1 fifth in the extended morning practice, but was outside the top ten for most of qualifying. The seven time MotoGP champion, the only Ducati rider with the new bike, will start from just eleventh on the grid, 1.846sec from pole.
Completing the top ten behind Abraham were Colin Edwards (Tech 3), Nicky Hayden (Ducati) and Randy de Puniet (Pramac).
With Dani Pedrosa absent for a third race in a row, HRC has promoted Hiroshi Aoyama to the Repsol squad, with factory test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi filling in for Aoyama at Gresini.