South Africa took pole position for the A1 Grand Prix season opener at Zandvoort with a sensational final lap by Adrian Zaugg.
The DAMS-run team were in the hunt throughout the four qualifying sessions, but looked set for fourth until Zaugg recorded a 1:27.349 lap, the fastest of the weekend, to take the aggregate pole by just 0.105 seconds from Mexico's Salvador Duran.
Going into the fourth and final session, Duran and impressive German rookie Nico Hulkenberg were at the top of the pile, with the latter just 0.016 seconds ahead.
The competitiveness of this season's field was emphasised by the fact that the top 10 teams had recorded aggregate times of their best two laps within one second of Germany's 2:56.454 provisional pole.
Hulkenberg improved his second best time in the final session to move the aggregate mark to 2:55.805, but almost immediately Duran became the first man to record two laps under 1:28s and took Mexico to the top of the standings. Duran was denied pole, however, when Zaugg came out in the closing stages, his aggregate mark being 2:55.531s.
Team Germany were pipped for third by a last-gasp run by France's Nicolas Lapierre. The French challenge grew steadily throughout qualifying and Lapierre went into the final session in fifth. A final run of 1:27.757s was enough to lift him above Germany and local hero Jeroen Bleekemolen.
The Dutch team were the biggest losers of the final session. Bleekemolen had been third going into it, but he was punished for failing to improve when the track was at its best and fell to ninth.
Between Germany and the Netherlands were the Swiss, British, American and Canadian teams.
Sebastien Buemi improved Switzerland's times with every lap, allowing him to jump ahead of Team GB's Darren Manning at the end. Manning was one of several drivers who proved capable of lapping under 1:28, but was only able to do it once after a sideways moment in the final session limited him to 1:28.310.
America's Philip Giebler stunned the field in the second session by being the first to get into the 1:27s bracket. He was subsequently unable to get within half a second of his 1:27.884 mark, however, leaving the USA entry in seventh, just ahead of Canada's James Hinchcliffe, who was the last driver to get under 1:28s.
Reigning champions France may have been kept off the front row, but Lapierre was still confident after qualifying.
"We can't get a pole position everywhere, but we have a good set-up for the race," he said.
With the top eight covered by less than 0.8 seconds after two flying laps, it will be interesting to see how many others have found strong race pace.
Pos Nation Driver Agg. time 1. South Africa Adrian Zaugg 2:55.531 2. Mexico Salvador Duran 2:55.636 + 0.105 3. France Nicolas Lapierre 2:55.688 + 0.157 4. Germany Niko Hulkenberg 2:55.805 + 0.274 5. Switzerland Sebastien Buemi 2:56.075 + 0.544 6. Great Britain Darren Manning 2:56.080 + 0.549 7. USA Philip Giebler 2:56.288 + 0.757 8. Canada James Hinchcliffe 2:56.307 + 0.776 9. Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen 2:56.618 + 1.087 10. New Zealand Matt Halliday 2:56.645 + 1.114 11. Malaysia Alex Yoong 2:56.896 + 1.365 12. Indonesia Ananda Mikola 2:57.188 + 1.657 13. Australia Ryan Briscoe 2:57.309 + 1.778 14. China Congfu Cheng 2:57.447 + 1.916 15. Ireland Michael Devaney 2:58.165 + 2.634 16. Brazil Tuka Rocha 2:58.418 + 2.887 17. Italy PG Alessandro 2:58.467 + 2.936 18. India Armaan Ebrahim 2:58.987 + 3.456 19. Lebanon Basil Shaaban 3:00.008 + 4.477 20. Singapore Christian Murchison 3:00.626 + 5.095 21. Greece Vasilis Papafilippoy 3:01.382 + 5.851 22. Czech Republic Tomas Kostka 3:01.573 + 6.042 23. Pakistan Nur Ali 3:07.812 + 12.281