Dani Pedrosa led a top four covered by just 0.118s during Saturday morning MotoGP practice at a bright and sunny Phillip Island, Australia.
Pedrosa, who missed out on the closing stages of Friday afternoon when an engine bolt came loose, was quickest by 0.048s from Repsol Honda team-mate and title leader Marc Marquez.
Valentino Rossi and Gresini Honda's Alvaro Bautista were tied for third place, 0.118s from Pedrosa, with Rossi's Yamaha team-mate and Friday pace setter Jorge Lorenzo
only fifth after failing to improve.
The session was dominated by Bridgestone's decision to specify that all riders use the harder rear tyre option for Sunday's race.
As a result much of FP3 was spent working on a race set-up for the normally unpopular harder rear - Rossi proving the exception and going fastest on the softer option before switching to the hard rear for the last quarter of an hour (and setting his best time).
Pedrosa's FP3 best was a few hundredths behind Lorenzo's Friday time, which remained quickest overall. Seventh place Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was the only rider other than Lorenzo in the top 16 not to improve this morning.
Those close to the lower end of the top ten changed to the softer rear for the closing stages to try and claim direct access to the second and final part of this afternoon's qualifying.
The flowing nature of the seaside circuit gives the privateer CRT riders a better than usual chance to attack the factory machines, with Colin Edwards, Randy de Puniet
and Aleix Espargaro all in contention for a top ten place. Forward's Colin Edwards
and Aspar's de Puniet both made it, in ninth and tenth, but Espargaro - who can wrap up the privateer CRT title on Sunday - missed out in eleventh.
Nicky Hayden was the only Ducati rider to make it directly into Q2, in eighth. However factory team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, plus Pramac riders Andrea Iannone and Yonny Hernandez, will need to battle for the last two remaining places in qualifying one.
Honda LCR's Stefan Bradl, who fractured his ankle last weekend at Sepang, has withdrawn from this weekend after testing his fitness in Friday morning practice. Bradl will try again next weekend at Motegi, Japan.
Marquez has a commanding 43-point advantage over Lorenzo and 54-point lead over Pedrosa. If Marquez is at least 51 points ahead after Sunday's race he will be confirmed as the first rookie champion since Kenny Roberts
in 1978.Free Practice 3:
1. Dani Pedrosa
2. Marc Marquez
3. Valentino Rossi
4. Alvaro Bautista
5. Jorge Lorenzo
6. Bradley Smith
7. Nicky Hayden
8. Cal Crutchlow
9. Colin Edwards
10. Randy De Puniet
11. Aleix Espargaro
12. Andrea Dovizioso
13. Andrea Iannone
14. Hector Barbera
15. Danilo Petrucci
16. Claudio Corti
17. Yonny Hernandez
18. Hiroshi Aoyama
19. Luca Scassa
20. Bryan Staring
21. Lukas Pesek
22. Michael Laverty
23. Damian Cudlin