Lewis Hamilton had the final say over Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg during a complicated third Brazilian Grand Prix practice session for the 2015 Formula 1 champion.
Hamilton endured a gear-selection problem and was later involved in a spin during the hour-long run at Interlagos before eventually posting the fastest time so far.
The 30-year-old set a lap of 1m12.070s, beating Rosberg by 0.123 seconds in the soft-tyre blast that closed the session.
The duo were head and shoulders clear of Ferrari pair Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, with the former 0.690s off the pace, and the latter a full second down.
In the medium-tyre runs that dominated the opening 45 minutes, Rosberg, who did not take to the track until 22 minutes into the session, surged his way to the top on only his fourth lap, deposing Vettel by three tenths of a second.
The German then traded fastest laps with Hamilton, who had earlier prompted yellow flags momentarily when he radioed in to say he had "lost gears", bringing him to a halt on track.
Hamilton managed to get going and returned immediately to the pits, and following a quick check was back out again, with his first flying lap shaving a tenth off Rosberg's time.
Rosberg, however, swiftly responded as moments later he again returned to the top, improving on Hamilton's lap by almost a third of a second.
Hamilton was then poised to reclaim top spot, setting the fastest time in the first sector by three tenths of a second, only to spin into Mergulho.
Attempting to explain over the radio, Hamilton said: "Don't know what happened there. The rear gave up real quick and I couldn't really react to it," to which engineer Pete Bonnington replied: "Looks like the rear just spun up".
That had followed a message from Rosberg in which he also claimed the "rear grip dropped away quite a lot" on one of his runs.
After switching to the softs, Hamilton's flier was done on his first run, and although Rosberg set the quickest time in the first sector soon after, he was unable to maintain the momentum, missing out by just over a tenth.
Behind the Ferraris were Williams's Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg in his Force India, followed by Lotus pair Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado in seventh and ninth respectively, either side of Hulkenberg's team-mate Sergio Perez.
Max Verstappen completed the top 10 for Toro Rosso, but almost 1.5s down.
Red Bull pair Daniel Ricciardo and Kvyat - who had been third at the end of the medium-tyre runs - wound up 11th and 13th, with Felipe Massa in between.
McLaren duo Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were a lowly 14th and 18th, the latter 2.375s off the pace.
PRACTICE THREE TIMES:
|6||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India/Mercedes||1m13.345s||1.275s||19|
|8||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m13.506s||1.436s||18|
|10||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m13.548s||1.478s||21|
|11||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m13.572s||1.502s||23|
|13||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull/Renault||1m13.829s||1.759s||17|
|15||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m13.959s||1.889s||23|