Pol Espargaro edged out championship leader Marc Marquez to claim his fifth pole position of the year in Moto2 qualifying at Motegi.
The pair were on top throughout, with Marquez setting the early pace before Espargaro lowered the benchmark to a 1m51.130s with 13 minutes to run.
Marquez's threat tailed off in the immediate aftermath of that lap, and in his stead it was Espargaro's Pons Kalex stablemate Esteve Rabat who looked most likely to challenge for pole.
With two minutes remaining, and while on his fastest lap, Rabat overcooked it however, running through the gravel and curtailing his bid.
Espargaro then shaved a quarter of a second off his own benchmark, which ultimately proved decisive as Marquez improved late on.
The Monlau Suter rider's time was enough to move into second, but still more than one tenth down on Espargaro's 1m50.886s.
Scott Redding sealed fourth on his Marc VDS Kalex, with Thomas Luthi (Paddock Suter) and Johann Zarco (JIR Motobi) taking a share of the second row.
Bradley Smith, Julian Simon and Nico Terol will start from seventh to ninth respectively.
As Marquez and Espargaro took up their typical positions at the front, the championship's third-place rider Andrea Iannone endured a torrid session.
Having struggled throughout practice, the Italian was running just 17th when he fell at Turn 9. He was able to resume but could not improve and was demoted to 18th at the flag.
He will therefore start directly behind Mika Kallio, who had a controversial clash with Marquez in third practice - the Spaniard hitting Kallio's bike and leaving the Finn in the gravel after a failed attempt overtaking bid.
Pos Rider Team/Bike Time Gap 1. Pol Espargaro Pons Kalex 1m50.886s 2. Marc Marquez Monlau Suter 1m51.023s + 0.137s 3. Esteve Rabat Pons Kalex 1m51.156s + 0.270s 4. Scott Redding Marc VDS Kalex 1m51.273s + 0.387s 5. Thomas Luthi Paddock Suter 1m51.481s + 0.595s 6. Johann Zarco JIR Motobi 1m51.640s + 0.754s 7. Bradley Smith Tech 3 1m51.736s + 0.850s 8. Julian Simon Avintia Suter 1m51.740s + 0.854s 9. Nicolas Terol Aspar Suter 1m51.977s + 1.091s 10. Toni Elias Italtrans Kalex 1m51.980s + 1.094s 11. Takaaki Nakagami Italtrans Kalex 1m52.038s + 1.152s 12. Simone Corsi Ioda FTR 1m52.052s + 1.166s 13. Axel Pons Pons Kalex 1m52.061s + 1.175s 14. Yuki Takahashi Forward FTR 1m52.098s + 1.212s 15. Mika Kallio Marc VDS Kalex 1m52.223s + 1.337s 16. Jordi Torres Aspar Suter 1m52.239s + 1.353s 17. Alex de Angelis Forward FTR 1m52.309s + 1.423s 18. Andrea Iannone Speed Master Speed Up 1m52.353s + 1.467s 19. Dominique Aegerter Technomag-CIP Suter 1m52.536s + 1.650s 20. Anthony West QMMF Speed Up 1m52.686s + 1.800s 21. Ricard Cardus Arguinano AJR 1m52.781s + 1.895s 22. Xavier Simeon Tech 3 1m52.921s + 2.035s 23. Mike di Meglio Kiefer Kalex 1m53.180s + 2.294s 24. Marcel Schrotter SAG Bimota 1m53.182s + 2.296s 25. Ratthapark Wilairot Gresini Suter 1m53.206s + 2.320s 26. Andrea Andreozzi Speed Master Speed Up 1m53.256s + 2.370s 27. Tomoyoshi Koyama Technomag-CIP Suter 1m53.299s + 2.413s 28. Gino Rea Gresini Suter 1m53.413s + 2.527s 29. Kohta Nozane SAG FTR 1m53.505s + 2.619s 30. Jesko Raffin Team Switzerland Kalex 1m54.352s + 3.466s 31. Elena Rosell QMMF Speed Up 1m54.674s + 3.788s 32. Eric Granado JIR Motobi 1m55.057s + 4.171s