Michel Fabrizio will start from his first-ever World Superbike pole position at Imola after a mighty last gasp effort saw him displace Ben Spies from the top spot.
Spies appeared to have wrapped up pole position with two minutes remaining when his best effort of 1min 47.778secs saw him edge out Noriyuki Haga, the two title contenders looking well positioned to resume their fight from the front.
However, Fabrizio, who had topped both practice and qualifying sessions prior to Superpole, managed to start his final lap moments before the chequered flag fell, the Roman proceedings to be cheered home by the Italian crowd as he exited the final chicane
Snatching the top spot by a mere four hundredths of a second, for Fabrizio, the result goes some way to making amends for missing out on a maiden pole position Kyalami by just one thousandth of a second.
Arguably the most exciting shootout session of the year, the fight for the first two rows went down to the wire, with Fabrizio and Jonathan Rea leaving it until very late to make their last gasp attempts.
Prior to that, Haga had laid down the gauntlet with the first lap of the weekend to breach 1min 48secs, but his hopes of a second consecutive pole position were dashed when Spies – who had been delayed on his first flying lap – came round to knock a tenth off the Ducati rider.
Fabrizio himself was nearly left celebrating too early as well when he was chased over the line by an equally rapid Rea. The Northern Irishman had been fastest during both knockout phases, but while he was quickest through sectors one and two on his final lap, a slightly tardy final sector would lose him a crucial tenth and leave him third, ahead of Haga.
Jakub Smrz leads the way on row two, the Czech rider giving the local Guandalini team something to celebrate in fifth place, even if he has given them some work to do overnight after dropping the 1098RS in the closing seconds.
Having favoured a quiet build-up, Aprilia made plenty of noise during Superpole after seeing both of its riders make it through to the shootout. Crowd favourite Max Biaggi was their top performer in sixth, but it was Marco Simoncelli that captured the imagination just behind in eighth position.