Bruno Spengler set the pace in practice for the DTM's first visit to Moscow Raceway.
The reigning champion, who trails Mike Rockenfeller by two points in the title race, lay inside the top 10 for most of the second half of the 90-minute session.
But with just two minutes remaining the Canadian blasted his way to the top spot in 58.666s to knock Mattias Ekstrom's Abt Audi back by 0.041 seconds.
Spengler was the only non-Audi driver to appear at the head of the timesheets beyond the few minutes of running at the beginning of the session.
First Jamie Green and then Abt team-mate Ekstrom took turns at the top, while a 58.722s marker by Miguel Molina left the Spaniard ahead in his Phoenix RS5 for over 20 minutes.
In the end it was Ekstrom who was the best of the Audi drivers with Filipe Albuquerque's Team Rosberg machine right behind him and ahead of Molina and Edoardo Mortara.
Championship leader Mike Rockenfeller and two-time title winner Timo Scheider made it six Audis in the top seven with Spengler's team-mate Dirk Werner eighth.
Joey Hand and Robert Wickens completed the top 10.
Canadian Wickens was the fastest of the Mercedes drivers despite being the only competitor to find the gravel when he spun at Turn 3 with 15 minutes remaining and got his rear wheels bogged down.
Fellow Mercedes man Gary Paffett clogged his air intake with grass and other debris after running wide early on; the misdemeanour requiring a trip to the pits to have it cleared.
Christian Vietoris, Albuquerque and Andy Priaulx all went off the track too while Green made it onto the grass at the hairpin, but was able to continue without drama.
Just 1.006s covered the entire 22-car field.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Bruno Spengler Schnitzer BMW 58.666s
2. Mattias Ekstrom Abt Audi 58.707s +0.041s
3. Filipe Albuquerque Rosberg Audi 58.718s +0.052s
4. Miguel Molina Phoenix Audi 58.722s +0.056s
5. Edoardo Mortara Rosberg Audi 58.772s +0.106s
6. Mike Rockenfeller Phoenix Audi 58.780s +0.114s
7. Timo Scheider Abt Audi 58.840s +0.174s
8. Dirk Werner Schnitzer BMW 58.893s +0.227s
9. Joey Hand RBM BMW 58.898s +0.232s
10. Robert Wickens HWA Mercedes 58.925s +0.259s
11. Adrien Tambay Abt Audi 58.933s +0.267s
12. Jamie Green Abt Audi 59.012s +0.346s
13. Pascal Wehrlein Mucke Mercedes 59.033s +0.367s
14. Augusto Farfus RBM BMW 59.088s +0.422s
15. Martin Tomczyk RMG BMW 59.124s +0.458s
16. Timo Glock MTEK BMW 59.289s +0.623s
17. Gary Paffett HWA Mercedes 59.291s +0.625s
18. Daniel Juncadella Mucke Mercedes 59.302s +0.636s
19. Marco Wittmann MTEK BMW 59.304s +0.638s
20. Christian Vietoris HWA Mercedes 59.406s +0.740s
21. Roberto Merhi HWA Mercedes 59.638s +0.972s
22. Andy Priaulx RMG BMW 59.672s +1.006s