Nico Rosberg grabbed a crucial pole position ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the build-up to the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
For the 11th time this season Rosberg again held the upper hand in qualifying over Hamilton, who was forced to settle for second best at the Yas Marina circuit.
Hamilton was quickest in the first and second sessions, yet it was Rosberg who pulled out the vital lap when it mattered most in the top-10 shoot-out with a time of one minute 40.480secs - four tenths of a second faster than the Briton.
Heading into qualifying the Mercedes duo had found themselves head and shoulders above their rivals, but come the one-lap clash they came under pressure from Williams.
In Q2, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were sandwiched by the duo, with Hamilton out in front and Rosberg down in fourth.
Rosberg needs a helping hand from either man in the race as he can take the title with a victory, providing Hamilton is third or worse.
But the Williams pair could only manage third and fourth on the grid, with the Finn just under two tenths of a second behind Hamilton and less than a tenth ahead of Massa.
It means there may yet be a twist in the tail in this season-long battle between the Mercedes pair, with Hamilton's 17-point cushion over Rosberg under threat given double points are controversially on offer for this race.
Assessing the situation, Rosberg said: "It was a great day again today, it all worked out well.
"I put a good lap together in the end, but it's only one very small step. It's about the championship, not about the pole.
"I was hoping for a Williams to be between us, it didn't happen, but hopefully that can be the case tomorrow.
"My mindset now is I need to get the job done, to continue with the form I showed at the last race in Brazil. In any case I'm sure it will be a great race."
Hamilton felt he "generally didn't have the best of laps," but added: "It was still a really good qualifying, I really enjoyed it.
"But as Nico said, tomorrow is the special day."
Bottas may yet be the fly in the ointment, although he said: "In the race Mercedes normally have a bit more in hand than they do on a Saturday, so it could be difficult.
"If something happens and we have the pace then there is no doubt we can move forward."
Behind the leading quartet Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo starts fifth ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel in his last event for the Milton Keynes-based marque before joining Ferrari.
Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat is seventh, with Jenson Button, potentially taking part in his last race, with McLaren Group CEO Ron Dennis yet to make a decision on who will partner Fernando Alonso in his driver line-up for 2015, eighth.
Ferrari duo Kimi Raikkonen and Alonso are on the fifth row of the grid, with the Finn scoring a rare qualifying success over the Spaniard.
With 20 cars back on the grid following the return of Caterham after a two-race absence it meant another tweak to the qualifying format, with five teams dropping out at the end of the Q1 and Q2 sessions.
In Q2 Button appeared under threat of missing out on a place in the top 10. With less than four minutes remaining he was told to return to the garage for fuel, to which he replied: "Are you serious?"
Fortunately for Button, he performed under pressure to take his place in the shoot-out, whilst team-mate Kevin Magnussen could only manage 11th, giving Dennis further food for thought.
Behind the young Dane will be Jean-Eric Vergne in his Toro Rosso, the Force India duo of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg and Adrian Sutil for Sauber in 15th.
Romain Grosjean qualified 16th, however, the Lotus driver drops to the back of the grid and will also have to serve a drive-through penalty during the race.
Under F1's complicated sanctions regarding the power unit, a sixth change of any one of the six components that make up the system result in a penalty.
On Friday Grosjean's car required a sixth change of the internal combustion engine, one of the two energy store units and the turbocharger.
The stewards handed Grosjean a 20-place penalty, which ordinarily would carry over into the next race, but with that being impossible on this occasion they were forced to also add in time penalties.
It means Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez will now start 16th, followed by Pastor Maldonado in his Lotus and then Caterham duo Kamui Kobayashi and young Englishman debutant Will Stevens.
For Stevens, whose sponsors have paid £500,000 for his drive this weekend as part of Caterham's crowd-funding project to get the team to Abu Dhabi after falling into administration, the 23-year-old finished only half a second behind Kobayashi.