Valentino Rossi snatched a rare starting advantage over title rival Jorge Lorenzo by bumping his team-mate off the front row at the end of MotoGP qualifying at Sepang.
Rossi's 1m 59.726s came so late that Lorenzo didn't realise he had lost third position until he attempted to pull into parc ferme, instead of the Movistar Yamaha pits, at the end of the session.
It is the first time that Rossi has started a race in front of Lorenzo since the Italian's pole position at Assen in June an comes at a crucial time: Lorenzo having eroded Rossi's title advantage to eleven points with two races to go
“I'm so happy because the front row is always very important. This time maybe it is also a bit more important because I was able to beat Jorge on the last lap with a small distance, but I was able to stay on the front row.
“I'm also happy because we improved a lot the bike, the setting and the pace was not so bad. We have still something to work, to make a bit better, but I'm happy because I'm happy and can ride the bike in a good way.
“In the qualifying, the strategy was OK. I try for the three tyres and it worked, especially the last lap was a good lap because I was able to ride a bit faster, without any mistakes and improve a bit the lap time that was crucial to be in the top three.
“But anyway third, fourth, fifth doesn't change a lot and I think tomorrow the race will be very hard for everybody, in general, and also the fight with Jorge because he also has a good pace.
“Jorge is very strong and very aggressive in the first corners because he has a very good feeling with the bike from the beginning. So for sure he will try to overtake me to get in front already at the first corner. Jorge is better than anybody at doing this.
“But it is a long race, I need to make a good start, try to give the maximum and see what happens.
“Also the weather - for three, four, five days we don't understand nothing because we don't see nothing [due to the haze]! So can rain tonight and then tomorrow dry, changing the condition of the track. Or can not rain tonight, or tomorrow at any time.
“I hope for a dry race, but we have to be ready and prepare for all the conditions.”
Rossi will start alongside outgoing champion Marc Marquez, whom The Doctor sensationally accused of trying to help Lorenzo last Sunday at Phillip Island.
Those allegations - plus a wide range of associated complaints - were made during the pre-event press conference at Sepang on Thursday. The pair returned to the very same room, separated only by pole man Dani Pedrosa, for the post-qualifying press conference.
Rossi's verbal attack on the Spaniard was naturally among the questions put to the pair, especially after Marquez twice rode closely behind Rossi during practice on Saturday, leaving the #46 visibly irritated.
On Saturday evening Marquez said it was just a coincidence, with Rossi adding: “Sincerely I don't remember it very well, but I agree with Marc. Nothing strange. Just in FP3 he slow down because he don't want to go in front [of me] but I think it is normal. Happens every time.”
Nevertheless the Doctor won't have been amused to see Lorenzo tucked in behind Marquez at the start of the Qualifying 2 pole shootout. However Rossi himself later benefited from a tow behind fellow Italian Iannone.
Was that also a coincidence? Ultimately it didn't matter since Rossi had moved ahead of the Ducati rider when he delivered his Lorenzo-beating final lap.
“I'm very excited to make one lap behind Iannone because usually it is difficult. A lot of times it is the opposite!” Rossi smiled, referring to the occasions he has ended up towing Iannone this season.
“It was a good lap because I was able to go down to '59, which was my target to start in the start five. But at the same time I understand that I can do a little bit better and because I was good in especially section three for example.
“So I have already the plan to make another lap but I don't see him behind, so I was lucky that I was strong enough for don't help Andrea too much to overtake me.”
The big question now is whether Rossi - who can win the title by finishing directly behind Lorenzo at both remaining races, but would lose the title if Lorenzo is ahead with another rider in-between - has helped or hindered his championship cause by targeting Marquez.
We'll get the first of two answers in tomorrow's race.
Asked if Rossi thought it was time to 'forget everything with Marc and speak with him', the Italian again made a veiled reference to Phillip Island:
“I don't know... So, you know, it is time to concentrate on the race for everybody, because it is an important race. I hope that all the riders make his own race, try for his own best result, and we'll see what happens.”
Rossi has won three of his seven MotoGP titles at Sepang. He would need to gain 15 points on Lorenzo to claim this year's world championship on Sunday.