Toni Elias took overnight pole on his very last lap after a frantic wet/dry first qualifying session in Malaysia - but Aprilia star Marco Melandri remains on course for his first 250cc crown.

The first quarter litre session at the Sepang circuit looked set to be disrupted when the long threatening rain began to fall steadily shortly before the start of the 45-minute session. However, with the changeable climate the level of rain could have gone either way - meaning first to put in a quick lap may have been on pole if it got worse.

Prepared for this were the likes of Debon, Matsudo, Alzamora, Porto and Jay Vincent, who all took turns in the top three in the first 15 minutes, before it became clear that the rain was steadily - but surely - decreasing and that with the high ambient temperatures the asphalt would soon dry.

As it did so, local hero Sharol Yuzy, then Robby Rolfo, Vincent and Porto all sat on the provisional top spot, before Telfonica team-mates Fonsi Nieto and Motegi winner Toni Elias joined the fight and stepped the pace up still further.

With 3 minutes left Nieto led the way from Elias with Melandri - looking to wrap up the 250cc crown this weekend - a cautious fifth fastest (1.8secs from pole), while Battaini held third, briefly, before being pushed down by de Puniet and Rolfo.

In a session that was clearly going right to the flag, Argentine Porto was soon back on top, only for Elias to take it away from him on the Spaniard's very last circulation.

Behind on track, Melandri had save his best for last and popped into second, 0.35secs from pole, to put himself firmly on course for the World crown with only rival Nieto qualifying a provisional fourth.

Melandri only needs to finish in front of the Spaniard on Sunday to wrap up the title with two races to go.

Full times to follow...

1. Elias
2. Melandri
3. Porto
4. Nieto
5. Rolfo
6. Alzamora
7. de Puniet
8. Battaini

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