Thomas Luthi snatched his first ever Moto2 pole position from Stefan Bradl in qualifying at Sepang on Saturday, when Bradl's title rival Marc Marquez made only a brief track appearance.
Bradl starts the penultimate round having regained the title lead by just three points from star rookie Marquez last weekend in Australia.
But Marquez came into qualifying without completing a single practice lap, having been one of several riders to fall when marshals failed to warn of a wet section of track in FP1.
Bradley Smith broke his collarbone, while a battered, bruised and dizzy Marquez chose to sit out both Friday afternoon and Saturday morning practice before returning for qualifying.
The seven-time Moto2 race winner was five-seconds off the pace after two quick laps, when he then returned to the pits, took his helmet off and began discussions with team manager Emilio Alzamora.
Shortly after, the pair left the garage with Marquez - who also has a bandage on his chin - holding the back of his neck. The 18-year-old will start from 36th should he choose to take his place on Sunday's grid.
"It was a difficult day because we expected Marc to feel better this morning, but he was not," explained Alzamora. "The lack of time between the crash and the practice did not leave enough margin to recover and he still feels discomfort in the neck.
"We knew that if he could do a fast lap and classify for the grid, we could see today and tonight if he feels better.
"It was a hard crash, but nothing serious, so it's simply that he needs time to recover. We will wait until tomorrow morning to make a decision."
Bradl, winner of four of the first six races, has not won for the past nine rounds.
If the Kalex rider can increase his advantage to at least 26 points on Sunday - meaning he must win and hope Marquez can score no more than two points - Bradl will be champion before the Valencia finale.
Marquez's goal will simply be to try and keep the title alive.
Bradl dominated much of qualifying, only for Interwetten Suter rider Luthi to move ahead by 0.212sec in the closing stages. Gresini Moriwaki's Michel Pirro completes the front row.
1. Luthi (Suter) 2m 7.512s
2. Bradl (Kalex) +0.212s
3. Pirro (Moriwaki) +0.492s
4. Takahashi (Moriwaki) +0.557s
5. P. Espargaro (FTR) +0.595s
6. A. Espargaro (Pons Kalex) +0.642s
7. Kallio (Suter) +0.728s
8. Corti (Suter) +0.807s
9. Redding (Suter) +0.900s
10. Pasini (FTR) +0.902s