Fernando Alonso gave Ferrari its first pole position in almost two years and claimed his first pole since joining the team with an excellent performance in qualifying for the Italian squad's home race.
Felipe Massa could not quite make it an all-Ferrari front row but took third, with Jenson Button's McLaren splitting the red cars and starting second.
Red Bull had its worst qualifying session of the season, with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel back in an unaccustomed fourth and sixth, sandwiching championship leader Lewis Hamilton's McLaren.
Massa and Alonso had been fastest in Q1 and Q2, respectively, and when Q3 began Alonso immediately made his intentions clear with a 1m21.962sec provisional pole lap – 0.297sec clear of his rivals. Alonso's second run was less successful and he aborted the lap, but it did not matter, for he had enough in hand to hang on to pole despite Button improving to a 1m22.084sec as he cemented his second place.
Behind Massa, Webber jumped ahead of Hamilton who, unlike Button, is not using McLaren's F-duct this weekend, while Vettel was 0.7sec off the pace in sixth. Seventh went to Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, whose teammate Michael Schumacher had another mediocre qualifying run and will start 12th.
Williams got both cars into Q3, with Nico Hulkenberg taking eighth and Rubens Barrichello 10th, split by Renault's Robert Kubica.
There would be no repeat of Force India's brilliant 2009 Monza form. Adrian Sutil was only 11th, missing a Q3 spot by 0.057sec, while Tonio Liuzzi suffered a loss of power early in Q1 and sat out most of the session, leaving him 20th on the grid.
The Saubers and Toro Rossos were also knocked out in Q2, along with Renault's Vitaly Petrov – whose 15th place may yet be in jeopardy after a potential blocking incident with Timo Glock at the start of Q1.
Lotus and Virgin proved closely matched in the new teams' battle before strong last laps from the Lotus pair pulled them clear, and put them ahead of the hobbled Liuzzi. Jarno Trulli teammate Heikki Kovalainen took "class pole" in 18th.
Pos Driver Team Q1 Q3 Q3
1. Alonso Ferrari 1:22.646 1:22.297 1:21.962
2. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:23.085 1:22.354 1:22.084
3. Massa Ferrari 1:22.421 1:22.610 1:22.293
4. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:23.431 1:22.706 1:22.433
5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:22.830 1:22.394 1:22.623
6. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:23.235 1:22.701 1:22.675
7. Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.529 1:23.055 1:23.027
8. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:23.516 1:22.989 1:23.037
9. Kubica Renault 1:23.234 1:22.880 1:23.039
10. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:23.695 1:23.142 1:23.328
11. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:23.493 1:23.199
12. Schumacher Mercedes 1:23.840 1:23.388
13. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:24.273 1:23.659
14. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:23.744 1:23.681
15. Petrov Renault 1:24.086 1:23.819
16. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:24.083 1:23.919
17. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1:24.442 1:24.044
18. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:25.540
19. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:25.742
20. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:25.774
21. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:25.934
22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:25.974
23. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:26.847
24. Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1:27.020
All Timing Unofficial