Cal Crutchlow hauled himself into contention at Motegi to put his satellite Tech 3 Yamaha on the front row after a brilliant performance in Japan.
The British rider appeared to be struggling during opening practice on Friday, but his team worked hard overnight and a number of set-up tweaks paid dividends as the 26-year-old improved his time by almost 1.2 seconds.
Crutchlow was in the thick of a frantic battle for pole position at Motegi with Factory Yamaha pair Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies, plus Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda.
He appeared on course for his maiden MotoGP pole after powering to the head of the times with a lap in 1m 45.257s before Lorenzo and Pedrosa sealed the top two places in the closing stages.
Crutchlow, who escaped a turn-one run-on and big front-end slide, didn't improve on his final five laps, claiming immediately after the session:
"We had something broken on the bike it seems, we don't know what it is, we need to look in the data this evening. In the part where I nearly crashed there was a big vibration, then I did my fastest lap the next lap, then I came in for a new tyre and it continued to vibrate."
Despite the setback, Crutchlow will now share the coveted front row alongside Lorenzo and Pedrosa for the fourth race in succession.
“I am really happy to be on the front row again and I have to say a big thanks to my crew because they did an amazing job to improve the bike from yesterday.
“In the first two practice sessions I was struggling just to make it inside the top 10 and ahead of the CRTs. Today I was fighting for pole position, so my team did a great job.