Sandro Cortese will start from pole position for the first ever Moto3 race in Qatar.
The German, a long-time frontrunner in Moto3's 125cc predecessor series, denied pre-season title favourite Maverick Vinales (Avintia) by 0.016 seconds with his final lap on the Ajo KTM.
The pair - who had also topped all three practice sessions between them - were just two of the protagonists in an epic session-long pole battle that had also involved Alex Rins, Luis Salom, Louis Rossi, and Romano Fenati at various stages.
Rossi held pole going into the closing moments before first Vinales, then Cortese jumped ahead, but the Frenchman (ironically riding for Team Germany) held on to a front row spot.
Salom qualified fourth for RW Racing, followed by Niklas Ajo (TT Motion KTM) and Fenati - the leading world championship rookie in the field.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin showed a step forward from his 125cc form to qualify seventh for Ajo. Miguel Oliveira (Monlau), Arthur Sissis (Ajo) and Alexis Masbou (Caretta) completed the top 10.
Sometime provisional pole-holder Rins fell back to 13th in the end.
It was a disappointing session for Aspar, the team that took Nico Terol to the final 125cc title, as its riders Alberto Moncayo and Hector Faubel could only qualify 14th and 16th.
Pos Rider Team/Bike Time Gap
1. Sandro Cortese Ajo KTM 2m08.188s
2. Maverick Vinales Avintia FTR-Honda 2m08.204s + 0.016s
3. Louis Rossi Germany FTR-Honda 2m08.303s + 0.115s
4. Luis Salom RW Kalex-KTM 2m08.566s + 0.378s
5. Niklas Ajo TT Motion KTM 2m08.734s + 0.546s
6. Romano Fenati Italia FMI FTR-Honda 2m08.799s + 0.611s
7. Zulfahmi Khairuddin Ajo KTM 2m08.847s + 0.659s
8. Miguel Oliveira Monlau Honda 2m08.926s + 0.738s
9. Arthur Sissis Ajo KTM 2m09.001s + 0.813s
10. Alexis Masbou Caretta Honda 2m09.107s + 0.919s
11. Alessandro Tonucci Italia FMI FTR-Honda 2m09.119s + 0.931s
12. Danny Kent Ajo KTM 2m09.126s + 0.938s
13. Alex Rins Monlau Honda 2m09.139s + 0.951s
14. Alberto Moncayo Aspar Kalex-KTM 2m09.370s + 1.182s
15. Brad Binder RW Kalex-KTM 2m09.560s + 1.372s
16. Hector Faubel Aspar Kalex-KTM 2m09.869s + 1.681s
17. Jasper Iwema FGR-Honda 2m09.876s + 1.688s
18. Alan Techer Technomag-CIP TSR-Honda 2m09.991s + 1.803s
19. Jakub Kornfeil Ongetta FTR-Honda 2m10.142s + 1.954s
20. Niccolo Antonelli Gresini Honda 2m10.150s + 1.962s
21. Efren Vazquez Laglisse Honda 2m10.577s + 2.389s
22. Ivan Moreno Laglisse FTR-Honda 2m10.760s + 2.572s
23. Marcel Schrotter Mahindra 2m11.055s + 2.867s
24. Adrian Martin Laglisse Honda 2m11.264s + 3.076s
25. Danny Webb Mahindra 2m11.317s + 3.129s
26. Jack Miller Caretta Honda 2m11.461s + 3.273s
27. Isaac Viñales Ongetta FTR-Honda 2m11.651s + 3.463s
28. Kenta Fujii Technomag-CIP TSR-Honda 2m12.845s + 4.657s
29. Simone Grotzkyj Ambrogio Next Oral 2m12.960s + 4.772s
30. Luigi Morciano Ioda 2m13.024s + 4.836s
31. Toni Finsterbusch MZ-Honda 2m13.254s + 5.066s
32. Jonas Folger Ioda 2m13.695s + 5.507s