Jorge Lorenzo claimed pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix and will start one place in front of championship leader Marc Marquez for the second week in succession.
The Spaniard clocked a lap of one minute 53.471 seconds to edge his compatriot in an extended session after bad fog saw Friday practice postponed.
Britain's Cal Cutchlow was 11th, his worst grid position of 2013.
Marquez can win the world title if he outscores Lorenzo by eight points.
Lorenzo won in Australia last week to keep his title hopes alive and he maintained his momentum in a 75-minute session at the penultimate event in the season.
The Yamaha rider was quickest early on and then consolidated his fourth pole of the season as conditions dried at the Twin Ring Montegi track.
Ducati's Nicky Hayden earned third and his best grid position of 2013 but was nudged from second when Honda's Marquez found some pace on his final lap.
Marquez, 20, can win the world championship in his debut season this weekend and only he could finish qualifying within a second of Lorenzo as rival riders struggled to keep pace.
Honda's Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha's Valentino Rossi are on the second row with the second Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso in sixth, while Cutchlow finished outside the top 10 for the first time since last year's British MotoGP.
With 25 points available for a win, Marquez will become the youngest ever MotoGP World Champion and first rookie title winner for 35 years if he extends his existing 18 point lead to 26.
1 Jorge Lorenzo (Spa) Yamaha 01min 53.471secs
2. Marc Marquez (Spa) Honda +0.658 seconds
3. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati +1.068
4. Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Honda +1.071
5. Valentino Rossi (Ita) Yamaha +1.261
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Ita) Ducati +1.565
7. Alvaro Bautista (Spa) Honda +1.664
8. Stefan Bradl (Ger) Honda +2.139
9. Aleix Espargaro (Spa) Aspar +2.248
10. Yonny Hernandez (Col) Ducati +2.527