Troy Corser thought he had a record-extending 43rd Superpole in the bag at Vallelunga on Saturday, until world championship leader Troy Bayliss came along.
Corser was ninth out on track and made his intentions clear by becoming the first rider of the weekend to drip under 1min 37secs. Six rivals then failed to topple the Yamaha Motor Italia rider, including team-mate Noriyuki Haga, but last-to-go Bayliss was able to squeeze 0.124secs under his fellow Australian's lap time.
Nevertheless, both Corser and third on the grid Haga look set to play a leading role in Sunday's races, when Corser will once again be fighting for a long overdue debut R1 victory, while both he and Haga can prevent Bayliss from being crowned two rounds early.
"I was going strong in free practice, we put a soft tyre on for qualifying and it went really well," said Corser. "I'm just happy to be on the front row to be honest, after we only had one day of testing in the dry. I thought my lap was good enough to take Superpole but then Troy came along and beat me by a tenth. The track is a lot less hot than it was for our summer tests so we will make final choices of tyres and set-up tomorrow. A good day for us, and we came so close to taking another Superpole win."
Haga was fastest in the wet on Friday - when he also suffered a huge highside - and lapped within 0.31secs of Bayliss in Superpole.
"I have a good feeling on the bike and I am so glad that it was dry today, even if I was fast in wet qualifying. After my big fall yesterday when I hurt my hand a bit I did not want any wet track conditions," the Japanese revealed. "With only one day of dry track practice we will still be checking our set-up in morning warm-up, but starting from the front row is always something to be positive about."