Jorge Lorenzo continued his stunning recent form by taking pole position for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.
His Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi will have to start his bid for an eighth Mugello win from the second row, having been pushed back to fourth by Casey Stoner and the superb Loris Capirossi.
The fourth title contender, Dani Pedrosa, salvaged eighth having been near the back earlier on as he struggled with pain from a hip injury sustained when he was jolted on a bump in practice.
Yamaha held a provisional one-two-three for much of the session as the riders worked on race preparation early on, before Stoner's Ducati hit the front with a quarter of the hour to go.
Rossi then sent his home crowd into raptures by pushing the Australian off the top spot, before Capirossi sprung a surprise by grabbing provisional pole for Suzuki with two minutes remaining.
However as Capirossi received congratulations from his crew in the garage, Stoner and both Yamahas were all on their last flying laps. Lorenzo and Stoner duly demoted the Suzuki to third, with Lorenzo edging out the former champion by 0.021 second to become the first man to earn a second pole in 2009.
Rossi failed to improve sufficiently on his last run and had to settle for fourth, alongside another strong qualifying effort from LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet, and Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards.
Andrea Dovizioso was the best factory Honda rider in seventh, as his team-mate Pedrosa eventually scraped through to eighth place after earlier languishing near the back due to the pain from his injury.
Toni Elias threatened to challenge for the first few rows for Gresini Honda, only to crash heavily in the closing minutes, leaving him eighth.
Scot Honda rider Yuki Takahashi completed the top 10 after his best MotoGP qualifying performance yet.
Among those with less to celebrate were Le Mans hero Marco Melandri, who was only 15th on the Hayate Kawasaki, and Ducati's Nicky Hayden, who took a lowly 16th for his team's home race.
Pos Rider Bike Time
1. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m48.987s
2. Casey Stoner Ducati 1m49.008s + 0.021s
3. Loris Capirossi Suzuki 1m49.121s + 0.134s
4. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1m49.148s + 0.161s
5. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 1m49.499s + 0.512s
6. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1m49.547s + 0.560s
7. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1m49.648s + 0.661s
8. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m50.073s + 1.086s
9. Toni Elias Gresini Honda 1m50.078s + 1.091s
10. Yuki Takahashi Scot Honda 1m50.305s + 1.318s
11. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 1m50.405s + 1.418s
12. Alex de Angelis Gresini Honda 1m50.448s + 1.461s
13. Niccolo Canepa Pramac Ducati 1m50.528s + 1.541s
14. James Toseland Tech 3 Yamaha 1m50.537s + 1.550s
15. Marco Melandri Hayate Kawasaki 1m50.710s + 1.723s
16. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m50.924s + 1.937s
17. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati 1m51.008s + 2.021s