Hiroshi Aoyama boosted his 250cc title hopes by taking pole position at Sepang - seven places ahead of championship rival Marco Simoncelli.
The Italian has narrowed Aoyama's points lead to just 12 by winning four of the last five races, but in Malaysia the advantage has been with Aoyama - who was fastest in both practice sessions then set a new pole record this afternoon. The result was Aoyama's fourth Sepang 250cc pole in the last five seasons.
A late improvement from Jules Cluzel earned the Frenchman a career-best second, ahead of his compatriot Mike di Meglio.
Title outsiders Hector Barbera and Alvaro Bautista were first and second for a while, but ended up being pushed down to fourth and fifth.
Simoncelli's eighth place, behind Ratthapark Wilairot and Hector Faubel, was his worst qualifying result in almost two seasons. The Gilera rider has struggled for speed all weekend and needs to make big gains for the race if he is to keep the championship fight close heading to the Valencia finale.
Thomas Luthi and Raffaele de Rosa completed the top ten as late crashes saw Alex Debon and Mattia Pasini drop down the order.
Pos Rider Bike Time Gap
1. Hiroshi Aoyama Honda 2m06.767s
2. Jules Cluzel Aprilia 2m07.099s + 0.332s
3. Mike di Meglio Aprilia 2m07.232s + 0.465s
4. Hector Barbera Aprilia 2m07.301s + 0.534s
5. Alvaro Bautista Aprilia 2m07.371s + 0.604s
6. Ratthapark Wilairot Honda 2m07.662s + 0.895s
7. Hector Faubel Honda 2m07.828s + 1.061s
8. Marco Simoncelli Gilera 2m07.916s + 1.149s
9. Thomas Luthi Aprilia 2m07.949s + 1.182s
10. Raffaele de Rosa Honda 2m07.953s + 1.186s
11. Alex Debon Aprilia 2m07.998s + 1.231s
12. Mattia Pasini Aprilia 2m08.159s + 1.392s
13. Roberto Locatelli Gilera 2m08.836s + 2.069s
14. Alex Baldolini Aprilia 2m08.841s + 2.074s
15. Karel Abraham Aprilia 2m08.908s + 2.141s
16. Shoya Tomizawa Honda 2m09.148s + 2.381s
17. Lukas Pesek Aprilia 2m09.336s + 2.569s
18. Axel Pons Aprilia 2m09.392s + 2.625s
19. Shuhei Aoyama Honda 2m09.654s + 2.887s
20. Balazs Nemeth Aprilia 2m11.611s + 4.844s
21. Bastien Chesaux Aprilia 2m11.941s + 5.174s
22. Valentin Debise Honda 2m12.171s + 5.404s
23. Vladimir Leonov Aprilia 2m12.813s + 6.046s
24. Imre Toth Aprilia 2m14.831s + 8.064s