Cal Crutchlow became the first British MotoGP rider in more than a decade to achieve pole position, securing the fastest qualifying time in Assen.
Crutchlow, 27, finished 0.357 seconds ahead of Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez.
The last Briton to finish on pole in the premier class was Northern Ireland's Jeremy McWilliams at the Australian Grand Prix in 2002.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Crutchlow had qualified in the second best grid spot on three previous occasions.
He last achieved that position in the previous race, the Catalunya Grand Prix, but crashed out on lap six to end his dreams of a third successive podium finish.
"It had been a long time coming. I have been very close to a pole a few other times, but have made mistakes," Crutchlow told BBC Sport.
"In my own head, it is overshadowed by the fact that [the injured] Jorge Lorenzo was not here, it would have been nice to beat him straight-up."
In a frantic finale in Assen, Valentino Rossi, Stefan Bradl and Marquez all took the top place before being demoted at the death by Crutchlow's 1.34.398 lap.
Championship leader Dani Pedrosa had looked on track for his third consecutive pole, but the Honda rider crashed with six and a half minutes remaining and could only struggle home in fifth.
It was also a stand out day for Crutchlow's Tech 3 team-mate Bradley Smith, as he finished behind Pedrosa in a career-best sixth.
Meanwhile, world champion Lorenzo has had surgery on a broken collarbone he picked up in second free practice. He will fly back to the Netherlands to "spend the remainder of the grand prix weekend with his team", Yamaha revealed.
Despite missing qualifying, if the Spaniard receives medical clearance for Saturday's race, he will start in 12th after posting a fast time in Thursday morning practice.
Netherlands qualifying positions
1. Cal Crutchlow (GB) Tech 3 Yamaha 1'34.398
2. Marc Marquez (Spa) Repsol Honda 1'34.755
3. Stefan Bradl (Ger) LCR Honda 1'34.878
4. Valentino Rossi (Ita) Yamaha 1'34.974
5. Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Repsol Honda 1'35.006
6. Bradley Smith (GB) Tech 3 Yamaha 1'35.454
7. Aleix Espargaro (Spa) Power Electronics Aspar 1'35.500
8. Alvaro Bautista (Spa) GO&FUN Honda Gresini 1'35.508
9. Randy de Puniet (Fra) Power Electronics Aspar 1'35.622
10. Nicky Hayden (US) Ducati 1'35.908