MotoGP title leader Jorge Lorenzo overcame the challenge of Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso to claim his seventh pole of the year, at Sepang in Malaysia.
The Factory Yamaha star, who will start Sunday's race with a 28-point advantage over Pedrosa, set the pace at the start and end of the hour - setting a new lap record on his 23rd and final lap to finish 0.194s clear of Pedrosa.
Unlike most of his pole rivals, Lorenzo opted to use the soft front tyre - as well as the soft rear used for much of the weekend - to set his fast laps.
Repsol Honda's Pedrosa held pole during the middle stages, with Yamaha Tech 3's Dovizioso then emerging as a surprise challenger.
The hard-braking Italian snatched pole with 15 minutes remaining, then again with just two minutes to go, before Pedrosa and then Lorenzo moved ahead.
Nevertheless, third place marks Dovizioso's first front row start since Indianapolis and he was only 0.233s slower than Lorenzo.
Casey Stoner again spent large parts of the session trying to solve set-up issues with his Repsol Honda, and didn't post a flying lap until 13 minutes into the hour.
Fifth during the middle part of the session, the reigning double world champion - who made his comeback from ankle surgery last weekend in Motegi - didn't improve after his 16th of 21 laps and finished the session in fourth place, +0.477s.
Dovizioso's team-mate Cal Crutchlow moved into fifth place, 0.8s from pole, on his final lap. A fraction behind the Englishman was Lorenzo's team-mate Ben Spies, who will complete the second row.