Andrea Dovizioso underlined Ducati's MotoGP resurgence by claiming pole position for the Qatar Grand Prix season opener ahead of Honda's Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez.
The combination of Ducati's winter improvement plus the team's continued dispensation to use softer tyres in qualifying always made a Dovizioso or Andrea Iannone pole at Losail likely.
But in the early stages of final qualifying they trailed the Hondas, as Pedrosa - after a quiet winter and practice - surprised the paddock by pipping team-mate Marquez for provisional pole by 0.013 seconds.
Pedrosa then found another tenth to stretch his advantage, while Marquez never did manage to improve on his initial 1m54.437s.
Ducati had more to come, though, and on his final lap Dovizioso produced a 1m54.113s to beat Pedrosa by 0.217s.
Three of the top five spots went to Ducatis, as Iannone took fourth and the older Pramac bike of Yonny Hernandez flew to fifth.
It was another muted Qatar session for Yamaha. Jorge Lorenzo was its lead runner in sixth, with factory team-mate Valentino Rossi two places further back behind the satellite Tech 3 bike of Bradley Smith.
After a disappointing Friday, Smith only just made it into Q2, scraping through to the pole shootout with his final Q1 lap.
The Briton was second to Pramac Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci in Q1, and the Italian went on to qualify ninth ahead of the Espargaro brothers, Pol leading Aleix.
Eleventh place for the elder Espargaro was a lower-key comeback result than Suzuki had hinted at with its winter form.
But it almost got both bikes into Q2, with Maverick Vinales only missing out by 0.011s thanks to Smith's late charge.
Scott Redding was the other man whose hopes of escaping Q1 were dashed in the closing minutes of the preliminary session as he was pushed back to fourth and therefore 14th on the grid..
Cal Crutchlow was the final Q2 participant, but didn't get chance to try to reproduce his superb practice three form as he crashed in the pole session, leaving him 12th.
His LCR team-mate Jack Miller was responsible for qualifying's other accident, crashing early in Q1 and consigning himself 22nd on the grid.
|5||Yonny Hernandez||Pramac Racing||Ducati||1m54.675s||0.562s|
|7||Bradley Smith||Tech 3||Yamaha||1m54.732s||0.619s|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||Pramac Racing||Ducati||1m54.876s||0.763s|
|10||Pol Espargaro||Tech 3||Yamaha||1m55.004s||0.891s|
|14||Scott Redding||Marc VDS||Honda||1m55.428s||-|
|15||Hector Barbera||Avintia Racing||Ducati||1m55.604s||-|
|16||Mike Di Meglio||Avintia Racing||Ducati||1m55.729s||-|
|18||Stefan Bradl||Forward Racing||Yamaha Forward||1m55.791s||-|
|20||Karel Abraham||AB Motoracing||Honda||1m55.892s||-|
|21||Alvaro Bautista||Aprilia Gresini||Aprilia||1m56.187s||-|
|23||Loris Baz||Forward Racing||Yamaha Forward||1m56.454s||-|
|24||Alex de Angelis||IodaRacing Project||ART/Aprilia||1m56.793s||-|
|25||Marco Melandri||Aprilia Gresini||Aprilia||1m57.934s||-|
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