Luca Scassa has given his hopes of staying in the hunt for the 2011 World Supersport runners-up spot a small boost by taking provisional pole position at Imola
The Italian, an early title favourite after winning the opening two rounds, has seen his form dwindle in recent rounds, but remains just 16 points off the battle for second position in the overall standings.
Having started on the front row at World Superbike level last season, Scassa laid down a confident marker with a 1min 52.375secs lap, two tenths up on Kawasaki's Broc Parkes and four tenths ahead of ParkinGO Yamaha team-mate Chaz Davies.
The Welshman, who can wrap up the 2011 title with a run to third on race day, improved his chances by provisionally out-qualifying Fabien Foret and David Salom, the duo fourth and eighth respectively.
Between them, regular mid-field rider Alexander Lundh was an impressive fifth best on the Cresto Guide Honda, ahead of Florian Marino and Roberto Tamburini. Robbin Harms and practice pace setter Sam Lowes rounded out the top ten.
Elsewhere, James Ellison, a podium winner at the Nurburgring, was 14th fastest, while Gino Rea failed to make it out onto track having crashed in FP1, the Briton yet to set a lap time of the Imola circuit.