Jorge Lorenzo swooped on a final stunning lap to earn his 50th career pole position during an electric MotoGP qualifying session at Motegi.
The Factory Yamaha rider knocked title nemesis Dani Pedrosa
off the top spot with a blistering late effort in Japan to ensure the championship favourite starts from number one on the grid in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
More than just a coveted pole position start, Lorenzo struck an important psychological blow over Pedrosa as their title confrontation continues.
Lorenzo, 33 points clear of the Repsol Honda ace in the standings with four rounds remaining, was embroiled in a dramatic qualifying shootout involving Pedrosa, Cal Crutchlow and Ben Spies before setting his benchmark time of 1m 44.969s to pip Pedrosa by 0.246s.
“I've been really fast all weekend with a very good pace but in qualifying, ten minutes to the end I thought I was making a very good lap but I was in sixth position,” said Lorenzo, who fastest lap on the works M1 was a new pole record at the Twin Ring circuit.
“I didn't understand how the other riders were going so fast. I needed to push a bit more; in the second to last lap I made a mistake so in the last lap I had my last chance.
“I made it so I'm very happy but of course the important thing is the race tomorrow.”
"A great qualifying, pole is very important," added team manager Wilco Zeelenberg. "It was a very intense session.
"There were a lot of pole position changes at the end and we dropped a few places. For Jorge to come back and do that lap in the last minute was very exciting."