Lewis Hamilton claimed the first pole position of the 2014 Formula 1 season in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, while world champion Sebastian Vettel failed even to make Q3.
The Mercedes driver, on wet tyres, knocked Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who was on intermediate rubber, off top spot by three tenths of a second in the final seconds of a rain-hit session.
Nico Rosberg, who had briefly taken first place before Hamilton and Ricciardo improved late on, was third ahead of McLaren's rookie Kevin Magnussen.
Both drivers, as well as fifth-placed Ferrari man Fernando Alonso, set their times on wet rubber with opinion split among the 10 runners as to which tyre compound was preferable.
Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne showed his wet weather prowess with a superb sixth place ahead of Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg, both setting their times on intermediates.
Australian GP driver quotes and data on FORIX
Behind the pair was debutant Daniil Kvyat, who impressed despite an off in Q3 on the run between Turns 10 and 11.
He took eighth place on wet rubber, ahead of Williams drivers Felipe Massa (intermediates) and Valtteri Bottas (wets), although the latter must serve a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change before qualifying.
Several of the drivers who failed to advance from Q2 to Q3 were unable to improve thanks to yellow flags caused by Kimi Raikkonen's late crash as rain returned in intermediate conditions.
The Ferrari driver lost the rear at the exit of Turn 3 and spun into the wall, with Vettel among those who were attempting to jump into the top 10 at the time.
With both failing to make the cut in 12th and 13th, Jenson Button made it three world champions to fail to make the top 10 shootout in 11th.
Sauber's Adrian Sutil, Caterham's Kamui Kobayashi and Force India driver Sergio Perez, who ran through the gravel at Turn 2 on his final flying lap, also fell in Q2.
Marussia driver Max Chilton was the fastest of the drivers to be knocked out in Q1, which was effectively ended at a point when most had managed only one run thanks to rain at the halfway mark.
Chilton was just 19 thousandths of a second slower than Kobayashi, who did make the cut but was unable to do better than 15th in the second stage of qualifying.
Chilton's eam-mate Jules Bianchi, Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez (who will be hit with a five-place penalty for a gearbox change) and Caterham rookie Marcus Ericsson were also eliminated in Q1.
Joining them were the two Lotus E22s of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, the latter not able to attempt a lap until the damp conditions late on and having two off-track excursions before aborting his run.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m44.231s
2. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m44.548s +0.317s
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m44.595s +0.364s
4. Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1m45.745s +1.514s
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m45.819s +1.588s
6. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 1m45.864s +1.633s
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m46.030s +1.799s
8. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1m47.360s +3.129s
9. Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m48.079s +3.848s
10. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1m48.147s +3.916s
Q3 cut-off: 1m44.331s **
11. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m44.437s +2.173s
12. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m44.494s +2.230s
13. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m44.668s +2.404s
14. Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1m45.655s +3.391s
15. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1m45.867s +3.603s
16. Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m47.293s +5.029s
Q2 cut-off: 1m34.274s ***
17. Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1m34.293s +4.118s
18. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1m34.794s +4.619s
19. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m35.117s +4.942s
20. Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1m35.157s +4.982s
21. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m36.993s +6.818s
22. Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault
107 per cent: 1m37.129s
** Gap to 1st in Q2
*** Gap to 1st in Q3