Max Chilton will start the GP2 feature race at Monza from pole position, despite ending the session in the gravel at the Parabolica.
Carlin driver Chilton was attempting to improve on his 1m31.886s pole position time in the closing moments. He was up on his previous best in sector one, but lost control in the middle of the Parabolica and spun into the gravel.
The yellow flags meant his rivals could not improve even if they had the speed.
Giedo van der Garde will start second for Caterham, having set the pace after the first runs. But Chilton bettered him by 0.067 seconds to take his second pole of the season.
Johnny Cecotto Jr took third for Addax, ahead of comeback kid Luca Filippi of Coloni - who will move up a place when Cecotto's five-place grid penalty for causing a crash at Spa is applied. Saturday will be Filippi's first single-seater race for 12 months.
Of the title rivals, Davide Valsecchi scored a victory of sorts with fifth, as the man he is tied on points with, Luiz Razia, will start down in 12th.
James Calado, who is third in points, will start 13th, after crashing in practice in the morning, with fourth-placed Esteban Gutierrez qualifying ninth.
Spa winner Marcus Ericsson took sixth, despite a trip into the gravel at the Lesmos, ahead of Fabios Leimer and Onidi.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Max Chilton Carlin 1m31.886s
2. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m31.953s + 0.067s
3. Johnny Cecotto Jr Addax 1m32.151s + 0.265s
4. Luca Filippi Coloni 1m32.165s + 0.279s
5. Davide Valsecchi DAMS 1m32.208s + 0.322s
6. Marcus Ericsson iSport 1m32.216s + 0.330s
7. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering 1m32.324s + 0.438s
8. Fabio Onidi Coloni 1m32.388s + 0.502s
9. Esteban Gutierrez Lotus 1m32.396s + 0.510s
10. Felipe Nasr DAMS 1m32.462s + 0.576s
11. Rio Haryanto Carlin 1m32.471s + 0.585s
12. Luiz Razia Arden 1m32.495s + 0.609s
13. James Calado Lotus 1m32.622s + 0.736s
14. Nigel Melker Ocean 1m32.625s + 0.739s
15. Jolyon Palmer iSport 1m32.659s + 0.773s
16. Stefano Coletti Rapax 1m32.675s + 0.789s
17. Nathanael Berthon Racing Engineering 1m32.769s + 0.883s
18. Sergio Canamasas Lazarus 1m32.772s + 0.886s
19. Simon Trummer Arden 1m32.889s + 1.003s
20. Victor Guerin Ocean 1m32.911s + 1.025s
21. Rene Binder Lazarus 1m32.967s + 1.081s
22. Stephane Richelmi Trident 1m32.969s + 1.083s
23. Julian Leal Trident 1m32.989s + 1.103s
24. Jake Rosenzweig Addax 1m33.109s + 1.223s
25. Rodolfo Gonzalez Caterham 1m33.511s + 1.625s
26. Ricardo Teixeira Rapax 1m33.719s + 1.833s