Robert Wickens seized the championship initiative by taking a vital pole in qualifying for race one in Catalunya.
In an interrupted session which saw two red flags, Wickens avoided the chaos to take his seventh pole of the season ahead of Albert Costa and Alexander Rossi.
What's more, his title rival Jean-Eric Vergne could only manage ninth on the grid and will have it all to do if he is to remain in contention for the championship.
The Carlin driver said: “It was a very strange session. But from my own perspective we had good balance on the car from the start and I was able to put in a quick lap early, which as it turned out stood up for the whole session. I'm looking forward to the race this afternoon. The easiest way to stay out of trouble in the race is to be out in front, so that's my aim this afternoon.
“With my pole and Jean-Eric's ninth place I'm in a good position. But it's not over yet.”
The session got underway in much colder conditions than Yesterday in Catalunya and it was Vergne who set the early pace, although he was one of only two drivers to have produced a flying lap.
The session was halted after only a few minutes though as Adrien Tambay, deputising for Andre Negrao at Draco, crashed heavily at the SEAT Corner.
The Frenchman, in only his second Formula Renault 3.5 meeting, skated over the gravel trap and into the barriers.
Although he exited the car unaided, Tambay was sent to hospital as a precaution and if he is given the all clear will start the race from the back of the grid.
After Tambay's accident had been cleared, the race restarted and Wickens immediately set the pace ahead of Spaniards Costa and BVM Target’s Sergio Canamasas.
However, the session was once again stopped after Gravity-Charouz driver Brendon Hartley ran heavily over a kerb, puncturing a hole in his chassis.
The subsequent damage left oil spewing out of his car in the entry into the fast right-hander Campsa, leaving the track surface extremely slippery and potentially dangerous.
The second red flag remained for 30 minutes as marshals worked frantically to clear the oil.
After a length delay the session resumed but Vergne, who had slipped down the order between the two stoppages, could not improve as the track conditions grew warmer and dropped to ninth.
Costa was able to stay second on the grid for his home event, although was disappointed not to claim his first pole of the season.
He said: “I'm happy to be second but a bit disappointed not to have set pole. I improved in the first two sectors and then I ran into too much traffic at the end of the lap. It's good to be well placed on the grid but I need a result. I've got a new helmet this weekend and I hope it'll bring me luck.”
Rossi completed the top three and the Fortec Motorsports man, who is vying with Costa and Kevin Korjus for third in the championship, will be desperate to preserve his advantage over the Spaniard.
The American said: “The track was very slippery and tricky, but as I was seventh I had to take risks to improve. Being on the second row isn't too bad. Albert's quick here so the battle for third in the championship's going to be pretty hectic!”
Jake Rosenzweig took fourth for Mofaz, who will be closing their FR3.5 operation following the final round of the season, ahead of P1's Daniil Move and Canamasas.
Both Pons drivers occupy the fourth row of the grid, with Nick Yelloly heading Oliver Webb despite the former making a small mistake which cost him a potential third place.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Robert Wickens Carlin 1m32.564s 2. Albert Costa Epic 1m32.854s + 0.290s 3. Alexander Rossi Fortec 1m33.048s + 0.484s 4. Jake Rosenzweig Mofaz 1m33.065s + 0.501s 5. Daniil Move P1 1m33.097s + 0.533s 6. Sergio Canamasas BVM Target 1m33.123s + 0.559s 7. Nick Yelloly Pons 1m33.167s + 0.603s 8. Oliver Webb Pons 1m33.246s + 0.682s 9. Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin 1m33.368s + 0.804s 10. Nelson Panciatici KMP 1m33.404s + 0.840s 11. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 1m33.426s + 0.862s 12. Nathanael Berthon ISR 1m33.437s + 0.873s 13. Anton Nebylitskiy KMP 1m33.556s + 0.992s 14. Arthur Pic Tech 1 1m33.613s + 1.049s 15. Stephane Richelmi Draco 1m33.640s + 1.076s 16. Daniel Zampieri BVM Target 1m33.781s + 1.217s 17. Sten Pentus Epic 1m33.873s + 1.309s 18. Walter Grubmuller P1 1m34.035s + 1.471s 19. Brendon Hartley Gravity-Charouz 1m34.058s + 1.494s 20. Cesar Ramos Fortec 1m34.238s + 1.674s 21. Daniel de Jong Comtec 1m34.416s + 1.852s 22. Fairuz Fauzy Mofaz 1m34.676s + 2.112s 23. Jan Charouz Gravity-Charouz 1m34.771s + 2.207s 24. Lewis Williamson ISR 1m34.809s + 2.245s 25. Daniel McKenzie Comtec 1m35.610s + 3.046s 26. Adrien Tambay Draco