Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa has taken his first pole position of the 2013 MotoGP World Championship season by posting a record-breaking lap at the very end of a thrilling qualifying session in Mugello.
The series leader had barely featured in the leading positions for much of the Q2 session as he struggled to find clear air for a fast lap, but got the space he needed with his very final run to turn in a lap of 1min 47.157secs.
A tenth faster than the lap record he set on the way to pole position in Italy last season, Pedrosa's performance came as it looked like Jorge Lorenzo had safely secured the top spot with his own record-breaking lap mid-way through the Q2 session.
However, a failure to build on that lap in the critical closing stages would leave Lorenzo open to Pedrosa's attack, the Spaniard unleashing a tremendous lap to claim the top spot.
Pedrosa and Lorenzo will be joined on the front row by the impressive Andrea Dovizioso, who raised a few eyebrows – and local cheers – by prevailing in an exciting exchange for third place at the end of the session despite his injured neck.
The first front row for Ducati on home soil since Hector Barbera qualified in the same position at Mugello last season, Dovizioso would do just enough to fend off former team-mate Cal Crutchlow, who will be pleased to come away from qualifying in fourth place after crashing five minutes into the session at turn three.
Riding his spare Tech 3 Yamaha, Crutchlow ran as high as third on his return to circuit before being demoted to fourth place, the Briton sharing the second row with LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl and Marc Marquez, the sore Spaniard doing a respectable job in sixth having suffered three accidents this weekend, most notably his spectacular tumble during FP2.
There was disappointment, however, for local hero Valentino Rossi, who raised hopes by running inside the top three early on, only to fail to improve his time during the flurry of fast laps in the closing stages. As such, he will start his home round from seventh position on the grid, alongside Nicky Hayden and Alvaro Bautista.
Heading up row four will be local 'wild-card' Michele Pirro, with Bradley Smith and top CRT rider Aleix Espargaro qualifying in 11th and 12th respectively.
1. Dani Pedrosa
2. Jorge Lorenzo
3. Andrea Dovizioso
4. Cal Crutchlow
5. Stefan Bradl
6. Marc Marquez
7. Valentino Rossi
8. Nicky Hayden
9. Alvaro Bautista
10. Michele Pirro
11. Bradley Smith
12. Aleix Espargaro