Markus Pommer snatched pole for the final round of the 2012 FIA Formula 2 Championship with his last lap of the session at Monza.
The result was the 21-year-old German's fourth pole of the season.
With the entire field switching to new slicks in the final 10 minutes, qualifying turned into a shootout with the times constantly shuffling.
Eventually it was Christopher Zanella who took second, with Kevin Mirocha once more claiming third.
Title contenders Luciano Bacheta and Matheo Tuscher were evenly matched, as Tuscher just edged out Bacheta to take sixth, leaving the championship leader seventh.
With Tuscher having to win the race to stand any chance of claiming the title, Saturday's winner has a lot to do.
Dino Zamparelli once more showed great pace only to be disappointed with the end result - fourth position not reflecting his speed throughout the session.
F2 newcomer Harald Schlegelmilch shone once more with a superb fourth, the tricky conditions suiting the Latvian.
The session's only casualty was Plamen Kralev, who backed into the barrier at the Parabolica, fortunately without too much damage to his car.
Pos Driver Time Gap 1. Markus Pommer 1m40.256s 2. Christopher Zanella 1m40.411s + 0.155s 3. Kevin Mirocha 1m40.413s + 0.157s 4. Alex Fontana 1m40.872s + 0.616s 5. Harald Schlegelmilch 1m40.899s + 0.643s 6. Matheo Tuscher 1m41.035s + 0.779s 7. Luciano Bacheta 1m41.160s + 0.904s 8. Dino Zamparelli 1m41.267s + 1.011s 9. Daniel McKenzie 1m41.701s + 1.445s 10. Mihai Marinescu 1m42.044s + 1.788s 11. Axcil Jefferies 1m42.510s + 2.254s 12. Hector Hurst 1m42.666s + 2.410s 13. David Zhu 1m43.176s + 2.920s 14. Maxim Snegirev 1m43.301s + 3.045s 15. Plamen Kralev 1m45.938s + 5.682s
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