Felipe Massa took a crucial pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix, as championship leader Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fourth position behind Jarno Trulli and Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton improved his time after a poor first Q3 run, but could not get any higher than the second row, as his championship opponent Massa dominated the crucial part of qualifying.
Prior to Q3, the title contenders had been extremely closely matched.
Massa had led a Ferrari one-two in Q1, but the results were slightly deceptive as the Italian team went out for a second run whereas Hamilton went top on his first flying lap and then sat out the rest of the segment. He had been three tenths of a second quicker than Massa at that stage, before the Brazilian gained 0.7 seconds on his second shot.
Both limited themselves to a single run in Q2, where Hamilton beat Massa by a scant 0.019 seconds as rapid laps from Heikki Kovalainen and the surprising Sebastian Vettel pushed them back to third and fourth.
But Massa then pulled clear at the start of Q3, with a first flying lap half a second faster than the rest of the field, while Hamilton made several errors and languished in sixth place - 0.799 seconds behind his title rival.
Hamilton produced a tidier lap at the second attempt, but remained half a second slower than Massa, who found a small improvement to set a pole time of 1:12.368.
Toyota driver Trulli then grabbed a shock front row position, ahead of Massa's Ferrari teammate Raikkonen.
Hamilton's teammate Heikki Kovalainen will support his title bid from fifth place, alongside Renault's Fernando Alonso.
Vettel took seventh for Toro Rosso in Q3, with his teammate Sebastien Bourdais ninth behind BMW's Nick Heidfeld.
Timo Glock completed the top ten in the second Toyota.
For the second race in a row, erstwhile title contender Robert Kubica struggled for qualifying pace, this time slumping right back to 13th place for BMW, having been 0.3 seconds slower than teammate Heidfeld in Q2.
Yet again, Nelson Piquet missed out on a Q3 position by a small margin as he lapped just 0.03 seconds shy of a top ten spot and took 11th on the grid.
David Coulthard will start his final Grand Prix from 14th place, two positions and 0.4 seconds adrift of his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber. Fellow veteran Rubens Barrichello, who may yet lose his Honda seat before 2008, out-performed his teammate Jenson Button again and made it to Q2, taking 15th place.
Despite looking quick in Friday practice, Williams had a disastrous final qualifying session of the year, with Kazuki Nakajima only 16th and Nico Rosberg 18th, split by Button, and ahead of the two Force Indias.
Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps 1. Massa Ferrari 1:11.830 1:11.875 1:12.368 17 2. Trulli Toyota 1:12.226 1:12.107 1:12.737 15 3. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:12.083 1:11.950 1:12.825 19 4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:12.213 1:11.856 1:12.830 14 5. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:12.366 1:11.768 1:12.917 17 6. Alonso Renault 1:12.214 1:12.090 1:12.967 18 7. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:12.390 1:11.845 1:13.082 20 8. Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:12.371 1:12.026 1:13.297 18 9. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:12.498 1:12.075 1:14.105 16 10. Glock Toyota 1:12.223 1:11.909 1:14.230 24 11. Piquet Renault 1:12.348 1:12.137 13 12. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:12.409 1:12.289 13 13. Kubica BMW Sauber 1:12.381 1:12.300 13 14. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:12.690 1:12.717 16 15. Barrichello Honda 1:12.548 1:13.139 14 16. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:12.800 9 17. Button Honda 1:12.810 9 18. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:13.002 8 19. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:13.426 9 20. Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:13.508 9 All timing unofficial