Michel Fabrizio remains the man to beat heading into Superpole after breaking the Magny-Cours lap record on the way to a dominant provisional pole position in France.
Having led the way after Q1, Fabrizio remained quickest with his Friday lap time of 1min 38.770secs for much of the Q2 session, before both Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga edged ahead by four hundredths of a second with around ten minutes remaining.
Nonetheless, Fabrizio struck back straight away to take a four tenth chunk off his rivals' efforts to emerge as the clear front runner around the French circuit.
Eyeing his second consecutive pole position, Fabrizio's time was also good enough to go a tenth below Haga's lap record from last season.
In second, Spies moved ahead of Haga for the first time this weekend, albeit only on paper as the pair compounded their close proximity by setting exactly the same lap time. Just behind, Jonathan Rea was six hundredths further back on the best of the Ten Kate bikes.
His Honda counterpart Leon Haslam made big gains between the sessions to go from 11th to fifth fastest on the Stiggy machine, just ahead of DFX Ducati's Fonsi Nieto, the Spaniard putting himself in a provisional top eight position for the first time this season.
Troy Corser is also on course to challenge for a spot on the front two rows as he continues to establish BMW as a consistently quick contender in seventh, ahead of Jakub Smrz, Carlos Checa and Shane Byrne, the Sterilgarda Ducati rider solving technical issues to catapult from 18th to tenth.
Outside the top ten, Aprilia pair Max Biaggi and Leon Camier are comfortably through to Superpole in 11th and 16th, the debutant now just a single second from Spies and Haga up towards the front.
Suzuki also qualified in 12th and 13th, Yukio Kagayama leading Karl Muggeridge, while Kawasaki will have two representatives in factory rider Broc Parkes and satellite Pedercini man David Salom, the latter making only his second Superpole appearance this year.
Outside the top twenty, David Checa, Luca Scassa, Sheridan Morais, Roland Resch, Flavio Gentile and Vittorio Iannuzzo will not progress to the shootout.