MotoGP championship leader Jorge Lorenzo snatched pole position from reigning champion Casey Stoner for the US Grand Prix on Sunday.
Stoner had leapfrogged Lorenzo late on only for the Spaniard to set the fastest time with his final lap around the Laguna Seca circuit.
Dani Pedrosa was third, with Lorenzo's team-mate Ben Spies, whose cause was not helped by a crash, in fourth.
British racer Cal Crutchlow qualified fifth fastest.
Stoner was held up towards the end of the lap, which helped him briefly move to the top before Lorenzo overtook him in dramatic style.
"I never got a clean lap," said an unhappy Stoner.
"There was always someone in the way, either cruising around or backing off in the middle of the corner."
There are no Moto3 or Moto 2 races this weekend at Laguna Seca, as is always the case at the Californian circuit.
1 Jorge Lorenzo (Spa) Yamaha one minute 20.554 seconds
2 Casey Stoner (Aus) Repsol Honda 1:20.628
3 Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Repsol Honda 1:20.906
4 Ben Spies (US) Yamaha 1:21.094
5 Cal Crutchlow (GB) Tech 3 Yamaha 1:21.268
6 Andrea Dovizioso (Ita) Tech 3 Yamaha 1:21.539
7 Alvaro Bautista (Spa) Honda Gresini 1:21.732
8 Nicky Hayden (US) Ducati 1:21.734
9 Stefan Bradl (Ger) LCR Honda 1:21.753
10 Valentino Rossi (Ita) Ducati 1:22.544