Lewis Hamilton led Jenson Button to a McLaren one-two in Brazil qualifying.
Title rivals Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso qualified fourth and eighth. Alonso will start seventh after a penalty for Williams's Pastor Maldonado.
Maldonado missed a weight check and was given his third reprimand of 2012 which triggers a 10-place grid drop to 16th.
Alonso is 13 points behind Vettel
and must finish on the podium to have any chance of overhauling the German.
Red Bull's Mark Webber was third, with Ferrari's Felipe Massa fifth and
out-qualifying team-mate Alonso
for the second race in a row.
It was a tight battle for pole between Hamilton and Button, who missed out by just 0.055 seconds.
Alonso wants 'strange circumstances'
"I'm grateful to be able to put the car on the front row and to have had my last qualifying with McLaren as a one-two," said Hamilton. "It is a fantastic job by the team and I hope we can turn it into something positive tomorrow."
Alonso has been unconvincing
all weekend - he has been slower than Massa.
However, there is a suspicion that the Spaniard compromised his ultimate dry-weather pace to set up his car to favour the wet conditions that are expected in the race.
His engineer Andrea Stella said over the team radio: "We know the situation is good for tomorrow."
Asked if he had made any changes to the set-up in anticipation of a wet race, Alonso said: "No not really. I think in these days the wet or dry set-up is dominated by the aerodynamics, so you can change the level of downforce.
"But here you run with the maximum downforce already in the dry so in the wet it is no big change. I don't think anyone gambled today hoping for tomorrow rain or anything like that and [it was the] same for us."
To win the championship,
Alonso must win with Vettel lower than fourth,
be second with Vettel lower than seventh or be third with the Red Bull driver below ninth.
There are 25 points for a race win, 18 for second, 15 for third, 12 for fourth, 10 for fifth, eight for sixth, six for seventh, four for eighth, two for ninth, one for tenth.
Drivers' title decider permutations
- Alonso must finish on the podium to stand a chance of snatching the title from Vettel (even if Vettel retires)
- Victory for Alonso would give him the title if Vettel finishes lower than fourth
- Second place for the Spaniard would mean he would only win the title if Vettel failed to make the top seven
- Third spot for Alonso would require Vettel to finish lower than ninth
Vettel was 0.179 seconds slower than Webber and said he was "disappointed", adding: "I need to look at the data and see where I wasn't quick enough."
Alonso will line up one place ahead of Force India's Nico Hulkenberg. The German has now out-qualified team-mate Paul di Resta for five races in a row.
Di Resta was 11th, 0.417secs behind Hulkenberg in second qualifying, which the Scot did not progress beyond.
Michael Schumacher's final qualifying
did not go well - he was only 14th, 0.486secs slower than team-mate Nico Rosberg in the second session, which Schumacher did not progress beyond.
Schumacher said he had set the car up in anticipation of a wet race on Sunday.
Alonso may well have been even further from the front had Lotus driver Romain Grosjean not failed to make it beyond the first knock-out session.
The Frenchman collided with the back of Pedro de la Rosa's HRT and broke his front wing.
The Frenchman had time to do one more lap after fitting a new wing and although he briefly made it into 17th place, Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo then beat him by 0.223 seconds.
1. Lewis Hamilton - McLaren 1:12.458
2. Jenson Button - McLaren +0.055
3. Mark Webber - Red Bull +0.123
4. Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull +0.302
5. Felipe Massa - Ferrari +0.529
6. Pastor Maldonado - Williams +0.716
7. Nico Hulkenberg - Force India +0.748
8. Fernando Alonso - Ferrari +0.795
9. Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus +0.840
10. Nico Rosberg - Mercedes +1.031
Brazilian Grand Prix, day three
- Sunday, 25 November: Race: 16:00 GMT, 15:00 BBC One, 15:45 5 live Sports Extra and online. Race highlights: 19:00 GMT, BBC Three.