Dani Pedrosa took only his second pole of the 2011 MotoGP season in Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying, after a huge fight with his Honda team-mates Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso.
Despite dominating practice, Pedrosa had to dig deep in qualifying - and gave himself an early headache when he fell at the final corner just 12 minutes into the session. The crash was a minor one, and he quickly rejoined.
As the likes of Dovizioso and Gresini Honda's Marco Simoncelli took turns on provisional pole, it took until 38 minutes into the hour before Pedrosa returned to the top spot he had held for so much of the weekend.
He did not stay there for long, with Dovizioso getting back ahead going into the last 13 minutes. Then Stoner - who had been a low-key fifth - vaulted to provisional pole with a time 0.061 seconds quicker than Dovizioso.
Finally going into the last runs Pedrosa put himself to the head of the field with a 2m01.462s. Stoner closed right in, but had to settle for second, 0.029s adrift, during their final showdown, with Dovizioso completing the front row.
A superb performance by Colin Edwards saw the Tech 3 Yamaha beat Simoncelli to fourth. Edwards' best qualifying result of the year was also some comfort for Yamaha, as its works bikes ended up 16th and 17th. While Jorge Lorenzo's stand-in Katsuyuki Nakasuga's last position was little surprise, Ben Spies joining him on the back row came as a shock. Struggling with discomfort from heavy bruising after his Phillip Island crash, Spies' body took another pounding when he crashed at Turn 10 late on and tumbled through the gravel. Even before the accident he had looked unlikely to get into the top 10.
Valentino Rossi also crashed at the same spot, but quickly rejoined on his spare bike to take ninth, three places behind an impressive run from his Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden.
Hiroshi Aoyama took a season-best seventh on the grid on Gresini's second bike, while eighth could be a slight disappointment for Alvaro Bautista, as the Suzuki rider had been as high as third.
Cal Crutchlow completed the top 10 for Tech 3.
On his return after injuring his collarbone at Motegi, Hector Barbera qualified 14th for Aspar Ducati despite brushes with Hayden and Loris Capirossi (Pramac Ducati) during the session and continued pain from his injury.
Pos Rider Team/Bike Time Gap
1. Dani Pedrosa Honda 2m01.462s
2. Casey Stoner Honda 2m01.491s + 0.029s
3. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 2m01.666s + 0.204s
4. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 2m02.010s + 0.548s
5. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda 2m02.105s + 0.643s
6. Nicky Hayden Ducati 2m02.172s + 0.710s
7. Hiroshi Aoyama Gresini Honda 2m02.254s + 0.792s
8. Alvaro Bautista Suzuki 2m02.332s + 0.870s
9. Valentino Rossi Ducati 2m02.395s + 0.933s
10. Cal Crutchlow Tech 3 Yamaha 2m02.756s + 1.294s
11. Randy de Puniet Pramac Ducati 2m02.939s + 1.477s
12. Loris Capirossi Pramac Ducati 2m03.077s + 1.615s
13. Karel Abraham Cardion Ducati 2m03.438s + 1.976s
14. Hector Barbera Aspar Ducati 2m03.619s + 2.157s
15. Toni Elias LCR Honda 2m03.646s + 2.184s
16. Ben Spies Yamaha 2m03.678s + 2.216s
17. Katsuyuki Nakasuga Yamaha 2m04.072s + 2.610s