Hiroki Ono used the final seconds of Moto3 qualifying at Motegi to snatch the best ever lap of the track and take provisional pole for the first time in his world championship career.
But it will be second placed Andrea Migno who starts from pole - Ono having received a three-place grid penalty on Friday, for riding slowly on track.
The Honda Team Asia rider posted a 'pole' lap of 1m 56.443s to beat Romano Fenati's old record as the top time changed rapidly in qualifying – Migno, Brad Binder and Enea Bastianini also holding the top spot for the briefest time as the chequered flag waved.
The final front row spot went to newly crowned champion Binder for Red Bull KTM Ajo, despite having issues with his brakes.
Gresini's Bastianini was shuffled down to row two as the final fast laps came in, along with Nicolo Bulega, who had lead before the final runs swamped his best and left him fifth on the second Sky entry.
He is best placed on the grid for the battle to be top rookie, just ahead of rival team-mate Lorenzo Dalla Porta who qualified in sixth.
A late crash with Juanfran Guevara prevented Motegi's 2015 winner, Nico Antonelli from making any late progress, but the Ongetta man had already done enough to secure a top ten start in seventh.
Fabio Quartararo also fell late in the session but had done enough to leave his Leopard eighth, ahead of Adam Norrodin, who again starts the flyaway sequence of races brightly, in ninth for Drive M7 SIC.
Philipp Oettl continued his strong season with the final top ten spot for Schedl GP Racing.
Aspar's Francesco Bagnaia was the top Mahindra in 12th, just ahead of the top Peugeot of Albert Arenas in 13th. His team-mate John McPhee was 16th and just sixth tenths short of the pole time, the top 23 riders were all within a second of the new record pole lap.
Stefano Valtulini fell in the opening minutes and Darryn Binder also found the heavy, sandy gravel near the close of the session.
Japan has two home-grown wild-card riders in the class -female rider Shizuka Okazaki who fills 34th and Rei Sato, the youngest person in the paddock this weekend, the sixteen year-old starts from 35th.