Luke Youlden resisted big pressure from a pack of pursuers to win the first Sandown 500 qualifying heat in Shane van Gisbergen's Stone Brothers Ford.
The grid for V8 Supercars' first endurance event of 2012 is being set via two 20-lap qualifying races on Saturday. The first sees the co-drivers at the wheel and decides the grid for the second, where the full-season regulars take over. The result of heat two sets the field for Sunday's 500-kilometre race.
Youlden jumped into the lead from third on the grid at the start, ahead of John McIntyre in the Ford Performance Racing Falcon that Will Davison had put on pole.
As a long lead train developed, McIntyre hung on in second until lap 16, when Dean Canto battled past in David Reynolds' FPR/Rod Nash Ford.
That also opened the door for Paul Dumbrell, driving a spectacular race in championship leader Jamie Whincup's Triple Eight Holden. Dumbrell charged through from 10th on the grid to fourth in the opening few laps, then pounced on McIntyre as Canto passed him.
Canto would also lose out to Dumbrell on the final lap, and he came within two tenths of a second of snatching victory from Youlden at the flag.
Front-row starter Nick Percat lost ground away from the line and finished sixth in the #2 Holden Racing Team car, behind Craig Lowndes' Triple Eight partner Warren Luff.
Whincup's main title rival Mark Winterbottom would not have enjoyed seeing his FPR Ford finish only 19th after Steven Richards was spun by Paul Morris at the first corner.