Dani Pedrosa has taken his second pole position of the 2008 MotoGP season - but first ever with Bridgestone tyres and the pneumatic-valve Honda engine - during a hectic conclusion to the one-hour qualifying session at Sepang, which took place on a drying track.
A heavy rain shower shortly after this morning's final free practice had soaked the Malaysian grand prix circuit, but dry patches were already starting to appear by the time qualifying began.
As a result, provisional pole shrunk from a 2min 17.905sec (Shinya Nakano) after the first 15 minutes to a 2min 5.192sec (Jorge Lorenzo) heading into the final 15 minutes - by which time all riders were on slick tyres and ready to exploit their special one-lap rubber.
The final five minutes began with Casey Stoner in charge courtesy of a 2min 2.953sec, but when the Ducati Marlboro star pitted for a final tyre change he was left without enough time to complete another flying lap.
As a result, Stoner will start just seventh on the grid, while his provisional pole time was reduced by almost 1.5sec in the final minute! First to topple the Australian was JiR Team Scot rookie Andrea Dovizioso, who was then edged out by countryman Valentino Rossi.
The 2008 MotoGP world champion improved by a further 0.6sec on his final lap of the afternoon, and must have felt confident of pole as fellow Yamaha riders Colin Edwards and then Jorge Lorenzo slotted into second.
Edwards then lost third to Nicky Hayden, but it was the American's Repsol Honda team-mate Pedrosa who had saved his best for last - the Spaniard, who was injured at Sepang during pre-season testing, shooting from ninth to pole by a substantial 0.409secs from Rossi.
Fiat Yamaha riders Rossi and Lorenzo will thus start alongside the #2 on Sunday's front row, with Hayden, Edwards and Dovizioso forming row two. Stoner will be joined on row three by Rizla Suzuki's Loris Capirossi and LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet, with Kawasaki's John Hopkins completing a top ten covered by 1.636sec.
Vermeulen, eleventh thought Friday practice, repeated that position in qualifying on the second of the three GSV-Rs present, while Tech 3's James Toseland - on pole with nine minutes remaining - will start from twelfth ahead of Kawasaki's Anthony West. West was fastest in final free practice with the aid of a qualifying tyre but was still in the top six as the closing quarter of qualifying began.
Marco Melandri will start his first and last Malaysian Grand Prix for Ducati in 14th position, with early session leader Nakano - momentarily back on pole with eight minutes remaining - slipping back to 15th for San Carlo Gresini Honda.
Sylvain Guintoli qualified as the leading Alice Ducati in 16th, with Gresini rookie Alex de Angelis, Suzuki wild-card Nobuatsu Aoki and an unhappy Toni Elias completing the field for Alice. Elias said on Friday that, for the second race in a row, his rear tyre selection is too hard.
9. de Puniet
17. de Angelis