Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly took his first Formula Renault 3.5 pole position in qualifying for race two at Paul Ricard.
The Frenchman, who is looking for his maiden win in the series on home soil this weekend, moved to the top of the times inside the final minute, deposing championship leader and his Red Bull stablemate Carlos Sainz Jr in the process.
Sainz attempted to respond and there was little to choose between them after the first two sectors of the Spaniard's lap, but he was unable to finish it as the red flags came out with 23 seconds to go when Zoel Amberg went off.
Speaking to AUTOSPORT after finishing second in race one, Gasly had stressed the importance of qualifying in his quest to land a race victory before the season is over.
"We have the pace now, we have shown that with five second places," he said.
"But of course I really want to get a victory. The key is qualifying - if you can start a 3.5 race from pole it makes a big difference."
Other drivers near the end of fast laps when the red flags came out included Fortec Motorsports pairing Sergey Sirotkin and Oliver Rowland.
Sirotkin, who had set the pace during the first runs of the session, was only 0.76 seconds adrift of pole and on course to improve on that time when the session was stopped, while Rowland set a personal best time through sector one and the fastest time of anyone through sector two.
But while the Russian could make do with qualifying third behind Gasly and Sainz, Rowland paid a bigger price for not being able to finish his lap as he was only eighth when the red flags came out.
Sirotkin will be joined on the second row by Jazeman Jaafar, while title contender Roberto Merhi - who sits 31 points behind Sainz with 75 still available, starts fifth ahead of Lotus team-mates Matthieu Vaxiviere and Marlon Stockinger.
An all-French fifth row of Norman Nato and Esteban Ocon means that four 'home' drivers will start in the top 10 for this afternoon's race.
|1||Pierre Gasly||Arden Motorsport||1m47.655s||-||12|
|2||Carlos Sainz Jr.||DAMS||1m47.725s||0.070s||11|
|3||Sergey Sirotkin||Fortec Motorsports||1m47.731s||0.076s||11|
|5||Roberto Merhi||Zeta Corse||1m48.022s||0.367s||9|
|8||Oliver Rowland||Fortec Motorsports||1m48.186s||0.531s||12|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Comtec Racing||1m48.287s||0.632s||13|
|11||Will Stevens||Strakka Racing||1m48.290s||0.635s||11|
|12||Luca Ghiotto||International Draco Racing||1m48.454s||0.799s||11|
|13||Matias Laine||Strakka Racing||1m48.541s||0.886s||11|
|14||Pietro Fantin||International Draco Racing||1m48.609s||0.954s||12|
|15||Oscar Tunjo||Pons Racing||1m48.615s||0.960s||12|
|16||William Buller||Arden Motorsport||1m48.619s||0.964s||12|
|17||Marco Sorensen||Tech 1 Racing||1m48.654s||0.999s||13|
|18||Nicholas Latifi||Tech 1 Racing||1m49.019s||1.364s||12|
|20||Cameron Twynham||Comtec Racing||1m49.416s||1.761s||11|
|21||Meindert van Buuren||Pons Racing||1m50.052s||2.397s||13|