A superb last gasp effort from Max Biaggi was enough to prevent Ben Spies from celebrating a provisional pole position on home soil following the first qualifying session of the weekend at Miller Motorsports Park.
Having held back to set the fourth quickest time in free practice, Spies looked to be on course to end the day on top in the considerably faster qualifying session after his own final effort proved the first to break the 1min 50secs marker.
However, shortly afterwards Biaggi, who had been gradually scaling the timesheets throughout the hour, pumped in a lap of 1min 49.820secs to usurp the American by less than a tenth.
As he had done in opening free practice, it was Carlos Checa who had occupied the top spot for much of the time, but the Spaniard would eventually be pushed back to third position on the Ten Kate Honda.
Jakub Smrz made it four manufacturers inside the top four on the Guandalini Ducati as he moved himself into contention, marginally ahead of the factory machine of Michel Fabrizio, the Italian another one to make a big improvement late on in the session.
Garnering plenty of the fans' attention beyond Spies, Jamie Hacking made fine progress on the Kawasaki to go sixth fastest, the AMA Superbike rider only being denied a provisional top five by Fabrizio's late ascension.
In seventh, Shane Byrne enjoyed probably his most prosperous day of the season on the Sterilgarda Ducati to be easily the best of the British riders, although Jonathan Rea did make some headway to go tenth.
Between them, practice pace setter Yukio Kagayama dropped to eighth, but not before suffering a crash in the early stages of the session. Nonetheless, he dusted himself off to rejoin the action and out pace countryman Ryuichi Kiyonari.
Elsewhere, championship leader Noriyuki Haga ran high early on but would slip back to 11th, while Troy Corser tumbled from his earlier second to go 14th fastest.
Of the remaining Brits, Tom Sykes, Leon Haslam and Tommy Hill were 19th, 20th and 24th quickest respectively, the latter suffering a technical problem on the Althea Honda.