Valentino Rossi delivered his best qualifying performance of the season with second place for the Malaysian MotoGP at Sepang.

The Factory Yamaha star was on pole as the chequered flag waved, but was toppled by a last gasp lap-record effort from championship leader Marc Marquez.

Nonetheless, Rossi was delighted with his performance, especially having saved a big scare early in the session, on the wet part of an otherwise dry track.

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Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was caught on camera running off after a major moment in the same area, but Rossi revealed his was even bigger.

"I saw on TV the moment for Jorge, but mine was worse!" he said. "Sincerely I didn't expect that that part of the track was so wet. In front of the pits were some spots of rain but not very much.

"The first lap out I tried to get the tyre up to temperature - some people had said to be careful at turn five - but I arrived at turn six. I had a big moment. The rear slid a lot and my bike was very clever to come back! So I was lucky.

"I knew I had a good potential because I'm very happy about the work today. We improved the bike from yesterday and I have a good pace. In free practice I ran with a used tyre, so I knew with a new one I could go fast and we were able to do very good lap times even in the difficult conditions.

"Second is my best qualifying and it's been a very good weekend for me. When I crossed the line and saw I was P1, I knew I had to wait for Cal and Marc. Cal passed in second, so I hoped for a bit, but Marc beat me!

"The important thing will be tomorrow. We hope for a dry race but here it is impossible to understand the weather."

Asked if Sunday's race could be his best chance of victory since Assen, Rossi replied:

"I'm very happy especially because in the last races we improve a lot. I am able to ride the bike in a better way and use a different - better - setting for the tyres. From Misano we have improved a lot, at the test and also Aragon.

"Here also has been very important for confirmation that we are going the right way. And today I was very confident with the bike. I have a good setting. But I think it is too early say [about victory].

"We have to wait for the warm-up. Especially because the other guys are very fast - Marc, Jorge as an incredible pace and Pedrosa in the race always gives something more. It will be hard as always, but I'm trying to focus on me, improve every time and fight with the top three."

Rossi was 0.325s slower than Marquez and 0.023s in front of Crutchlow. Lorenzo will start from fourth place, 0.567s from Marquez.