A perfectly timed final dash catapulted Niccolo Antonelli into pole position as the elated Italian got the best of the group chasing down Jorge Navarro to lead off the Malaysian Moto3 grand Prix at Sepang.

The Ongetta-Rivacold rider posted the best lap of the day with a 2m 12.653s in the haze at the track allowing Antonelli to claim his second pole of the season for Honda as behind him the Moto3 title battle unfolded in dramatic fashion.

Miguel Oliveira has looked relaxed and confident for Red Bull KTM Ajo as the only man who can still stop Danny Kent taking the title.

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The Portuguese rider got in an early banker lap to aid his calmness, leading from eight minutes into the session until the final lap dash to the line, when despite improving himself, he was beaten into third by Antonelli and the man who was being chased down all the way, Navarro, who was strong enough out front to secure second for Estrella Galicia 0,0.

By contrast Kent was way down the timesheets in fourteenth and scrapping with a huge gang of followers, he spent much of the session waving his fists and hitting his dashboard, riding slowly and risking being penalised by race direction again as he obsessed about the riders grouping behind him.

A trip through the pits did nothing to deter his followers, including team-mate Vazquez, but arriving back on track behind Navarro gave him something to chase, pushing the Briton up to sixth at the chequered flag.

Kent revealed after the session how frustrated he was with not being allowed space on track and dealt out the blame, bemoaning the lack of co-operation from other Honda riders as the KTM's circulated in a group to aid Oliveira.

Leopard racing boss Stefan Kiefer also joined in with his riders criticism of Vazquez who was happy to follow Kent but did not reciprocate.

The title chances have been slipping through his fingers since Aragon, but Sepang marks his most concrete chance of taking the crown to date, taking the title if he does not lose more than 15 points to nearest rival and the only other rider who can take the crown, future team-mate Oliveira.

Away from the in-form front row riders and title battles Efren Vazquez, last seasons race winner, was the best of the rest in fourth and is joined on row two by Jakub Kornfeil - an excellent fifth for Drive M7 SIC at the team's home race, and Kent in sixth.

Romano Fenati held on as the final fast times flew in for seventh for Sky Racing Team VR46.

The third row is filled with Italian riders as he is joined by Mapfre Team Mahindra's Francesco Bagnaia in eighth, their highest qualifying rider and Gresini's Enea Bastianini in ninth, off the pace and out of the title hunt.

Malaysian rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin muscled his way to a good qualifying position at home, riding around constantly with his Drive M7 team-mate as they worked the track together.

John McPhee started second at Sepang last season and was elevated to first place on the grid last weekend in Australia, A big crash in FP3 meant he was on painkillers for his qualifying run and gave everything on his SaxoPrint-RTG machine for a brave twelfth.

Ana Carrasco was the first faller, tumbling away from her bike with 22 minutes remaining and immediately grabbing the shoulder she hurt earlier in the year but returned late on for a final run. Lorenzo Dalla Porta and Gabriel Rodrigo were next into the gravel with the Italian wiping out the Argentinian rider.

Andrea Locatelli, Alessandro Tonucci and Fabio Quartararo all miss the Malaysian grand prix through injury. None are replaced.