A superb mid-session effort from Jonathan Rea has seen him snatch the initiative heading into the first Superpole of the 2009 World Superbike season following an exceptionally close Q2.
With only 20 of the 28 riders able to go through to Superpole, Rea down to Broc Parkes in 20th were classified within a second of one another, setting up a tantalising prospect for the new knockout format.
It was Ten Kate's Rea that assumed the status of favourite heading into the session after slicing 1.3secs off his best lap from yesterday to leap from 17th to first. Overcoming the mechanical issues that blighted his first day around Phillip Island, Rea's lap of 1min 32.161secs gave a nod to his record-breaking pace during testing a week earlier.
Beyond Rea, Aprilia and BMW shared some of the headlines by showing how far they have come recently as they grabbed second and fifth respectively in the hands of Max Biaggi and Troy Corser. Both riders benefitted from impressive late efforts to move up from outside of the top ten to be within just two tenths of the pace.
Provisional pole sitter Jakub Smrz clung onto third position, despite failing to improve his time. The Czech rider was joined by fellow Q1 star riders Leon Haslam and Yukio Kagayama in failing to gain any ground between the sessions, although, unlike Smrz, the closeness of the order saw them take a tumble down the order from third and fifth to 12th and 13th.
Still behind Smrz on the Ducati hierarchy, Haga did manage to improve his lap time, but dropped to the outside of the provisional front row in fourth position.
Xerox team-mate Michel Fabrizio sandwiched Corser in sixth, ahead of Ben Spies, the American making up decent ground in the early stages of the session before eventually slipping to seventh place. His Yamaha team-mate, Tom Sykes, was just nine thousandths of a second adrift in ninth, although DFX's Regis Laconi did manage to split the pair in eighth.
Suzuki suffered a dip in form, with Max Neukirchner improving his time but dropping six positions to tenth, ahead of Ryuichi Kiyonari, Haslam and Kagayama.
While three failed to make the top ten, all five British riders made it comfortably through to Superpole, with Shane Byrne improving slightly to 14th and Tommy Hill doing a good job to move up to 15th from outside the top twenty. Shinya Nakano, Carlos Checa, Ruben Xaus, Roberto Rolfo and Parkes filled the final Superpole positions.
It meant that one factory rider, Kawasaki's Makoto Tamada, will miss out on a chance to improve his grid position after only qualifying 22nd. He will be joined towards the back of the grid by Brendan Roberts, Ayrton Badovini, David Salom, Karl Muggeridge, Luca Scassa, Vittorio Iannuzzo and Matteo Baiocco.
Superpole takes place later today, with the first knockout session deciding position 17th to 20th, before the second eliminates those between ninth and 16th. The final session decides the grid slot for the first two rows.