Yvan Muller captured an emphatic third World Touring Car pole of 2013 as qualifying built to a comical conclusion at the Salzburgring.
The Frenchman carried his practice form into the knockout session, and on fresh rubber set a new record of 1m25.756s.
That was more than one second faster than Rob Huff's 2012 benchmark, and enough to earn him pole by a comfortable margin.
Chilton was also able to dip below the 1m26s mark, but equally was the only man to get within seven tenths of Muller's mark.
That could have changed as the field headed out with time for one final run, but the pace slowed to a crawl as drivers jostled for the perfect slipstreaming position behind Chilton.
Rather than benefit from a tow however all 12 ended up failing to make the line before the chequered flag fell, freezing the order.
Defending champion Rob Huff therefore starts from third in his Munnich-run SEAT third, ahead of the Bamboo and NIKA Chevrolets of Alex MacDowall and Michel Nykjaer.
Gabriele Tarquini, who only snuck into Q2 in the dying moments of Q1, claimed sixth ahead of works Honda stablemate Tiago Monteiro, the Tuenti SEAT of Pepe Oriola and Norbert Michelisz's Zengo-run Civic.
James Nash took 10th and with it the reverse-grid race two pole, edging out the PB Racing BMW of Stefano D'Aste by just under half a second. Tom Coronel failed to set a time.
Tarquini's late Q1 improvement, secured courtesy of an excellent final sector, cost Mehdi Bennani and Lada's Mikhail Kozlovskiy the chance to make it into Q2.
Kozlovskiy still secured his best grid slot of 14th, and for the first time was ahead of team-mate James Thompson, who was still suffering from steering issues which had prevented him from running in second practice.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Yvan Muller RML Chevrolet 1m25.756s 2. Tom Chilton RML Chevrolet 1m25.961s + 0.205 3. Rob Huff Munnich SEAT 1m26.554s + 0.798 4. Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet 1m26.560s + 0.804 5. Michel Nykjaer Nika Chevrolet 1m26.654s + 0.898 6. Gabriele Tarquini Honda 1m26.701s + 0.945 7. Tiago Monteiro Honda 1m26.746s + 0.990 8. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT 1m26.887s + 1.131 9. Norbert Michelisz Zengo Honda 1m26.902s + 1.146 10. James Nash Bamboo Chevrolet 1m26.938s + 1.182 11. Stefano D'Aste PB BMW 1m27.432s + 1.676 12. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW no time 13. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 1m27.323s Q1 14. Mikhail Kozlovskiy Lada 1m27.415s Q1 15. Fredy Barth Wiechers BMW 1m27.564s Q1 16. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 1m27.647s Q1 17. Marc Basseng Munnich SEAT 1m27.860s Q1 18. Hugo Valente Campos SEAT 1m27.912s Q1 19. Darryl O'Young ROAL BMW 1m28.017s Q1 20. James Thompson Lada 1m28.021s Q1 21. Charles Ng Engstler BMW 1m28.575s Q1 22. Rene Munnich Munnich SEAT 1m28.932s Q1 23. Fernando Monje Campos SEAT 1m29.454s Q1