Thomas Luthi returned to the top of the timesheets in third practice for the Moto2 Grand Prix of Catalunya but was pushed all the way by Britain's Bradley Smith.

Luthi, who set the pace on Friday morning before being beaten in the afternoon by Simone Corsi, set a 1:47.383 to all but match the fastest time seen all weekend.

But Bradley Smith was just 0.041s behind in second and justified his decision to turn down a MotoGP ride with the Tech 3 squad, as he continues to make impressive progress in his debut Moto2 campaign.

Smith wasn't the only 125cc graduate to push Luthi on Saturday as Marc Marquez went third fastest on a 1:47.457, continuing the form that took him to victory at Le Mans three weeks ago.

British fans have even greater cause to be excited ahead of qualifying as Scott Redding was less than a tenth off the pace in fourth. The Marc VDS rider was the man to beat early in the session and was only knocked off the top with six minutes to go. The Briton edged out Andrea Iannone who was on the pace too in fifth.

Aleix Espargaro was another rider to have a spell at the top before ending up in sixth ahead of Julian Simon, with Jules Cluzel putting in his best performance of the weekend to take eighth.

With the intermediate class so competitive this weekend, championship leader Stefan Bradl will have his work cut out if he is to make it five poles out of five. The German was ninth in final practice but with the gap to Luthi just 0.323s, he will still fancy his chances this afternoon.

Gresini Racing had a quiet morning as Michele Pirro set the tenth fastest time while 2010 winner Yuki Takahashi was only 19th, albeit just 0.852s away from the pacesetter.

Kev Coghlan shaved over half a second off his best time from yesterday and moved up to 30th place. The Scotsman was only 1.303s down on Luthi's benchmark as the Moto2 field looks closer than ever.

It all bodes well for a thrilling battle for pole position later this afternoon with countless riders feeling they have a chance at securing a place on the front row. The session will get underway at 2:10pm UK time.