125cc championship leader Marc Marquez claimed a record 10th pole position of the season with another superb performance in Sepang qualifying.
Going into the closing minutes, it seemed likely that Aspar Aprilia's Bradley Smith would upstage the title contenders and start from pole for the third time in 2010.
Marquez's penultimate lap looked slightly too slow to depose Smith, but a tow from Esteve Rabat on the pits straight allowed the Ajo Derbi to grab the provisional top spot by 0.005 seconds.
The Spaniard then made completely sure of pole by improving by nearly three tenths of a second on his last lap - despite a scare when a large part of the rear bodywork from Sturla Fagerhaug's bike flew off when right in front of Marquez. It was the points leader's second near-miss of the afternoon, Zulfahmi Khairuddin having crashed just in front of him in the opening minutes.
Smith remained second, ahead of his team-mate Nico Terol and third title combatant Pol Espargaro (Tuenti Derbi), whose team-mate Efren Vazquez bounced back from his nasty Motegi startline crash to qualify fifth.
However Jonas Folger, who struck Vazquez in that accident, is having to sit out Sepang after a broken arm was diagnosed during subsequent checks in Malaysia.
Sandro Cortese, Rabat, Luis Salom, Tomoyoshi Koyama and Randy Krummenacher completed the top 10.
Danny Webb sustained a broken bone in his hand in a practice crash yesterday, but shrugged this off to qualify 12th, while Danny Kent again took Lambretta to new heights as he grabbed 13th.
Pos Rider Bike Time Gap 1. Marc Marquez Derbi 2m13.398s 2. Bradley Smith Aprilia 2m13.691s + 0.293s 3. Nicolas Terol Aprilia 2m14.104s + 0.706s 4. Pol Espargaro Derbi 2m14.105s + 0.707s 5. Efren Vazquez Derbi 2m14.415s + 1.017s 6. Sandro Cortese Derbi 2m14.551s + 1.153s 7. Esteve Rabat Aprilia 2m14.772s + 1.374s 8. Luis Salom Aprilia 2m15.494s + 2.096s 9. Tomoyoshi Koyama Aprilia 2m15.541s + 2.143s 10. Randy Krummenacher Aprilia 2m15.967s + 2.569s 11. Johann Zarco Aprilia 2m16.150s + 2.752s 12. Danny Webb Aprilia 2m16.286s + 2.888s 13. Danny Kent Lambretta 2m16.392s + 2.994s 14. Alberto Moncayo Aprilia 2m16.543s + 3.145s 15. Adrian Martin Aprilia 2m16.706s + 3.308s 16. Simone Grotzkyj Aprilia 2m17.151s + 3.753s 17. Louis Rossi Aprilia 2m17.154s + 3.756s 18. Marcel Schrotter Honda 2m17.268s + 3.870s 19. Jakub Kornfeil Aprilia 2m17.441s + 4.043s 20. Lorenzo Savadori Aprilia 2m17.802s + 4.404s 21. Sturla Fagerhaug Aprilia 2m17.878s + 4.480s 22. Zulfahmi Khairuddin Aprilia 2m17.896s + 4.498s 23. Marco Ravaioli Lambretta 2m17.953s + 4.555s 24. Jasper Iwema Aprilia 2m18.515s + 5.117s 25. Luca Marconi Aprilia 2m19.444s + 6.046s 26. Tommaso Gabrielli Aprilia 2m21.190s + 7.792s