Maverick Vinales certainly saved his best for last as he snatched pole position from Sandro Cortese on the final lap of qualifying at Mugello. The championship leader looked to have it in the bag as Vinales trailed him three quarters of the way around the lap but an astonishing final sector saw the Spaniard take it by 0.421s.
The two title rivals swapped provisional pole early on with Danny Kent also in the mix, continuing his good form from free practice. But with seventeen minutes remaining, Efren Vazquez shot to the top of the order on the JHK Laglisse FTR-Honda, becoming the first rider to go under 1m58. He would keep provisional pole until the riders put on their final set of tyres.
Danny Kent was the first launch a challenge but the Briton came up short by a quarter of a second, taking P2 from Vinales, but the Avintia Blusens rider leapt back to the top of the leaderboard shortly afterwards. Traffic was becoming a major issue with Vinales having to pick his way through a swarm of motorcycles but Alex Rins, riding on the tail of the no.25, wasn't complaining as he used the slipstream to take second.
Cortese had managed to find some empty tarmac and dethroned Vinales with a 1:58.691 but the German wasn't finished there, and extended his lead on consecutive laps, getting down to a 1:58.401 before calling it a day.
Vinales made one final bid to regain pole position but it wasn't looking promising on his final lap as he trailed by a tenth of a second at the third checkpoint. Cortese was now back in his pit box and watching nervously on his monitor but surely even he wasn't expecting Vinales to find half a second in the final sector. Vinales did just that though, striking a timely psychological blow in the title fight.
Rins held onto third for Estrella Galicia with Efren Vazquez demoted to fourth after failing to improve on the time he set midway through the session. Danny Kent will start a solid fifth with Niccolo Antonelli flying the Italian flag in sixth.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin heads the third row on his factory KTM with Romano Fenati perhaps disappointed with eighth. The Team Italia FMI rider was certainly angered by the riding of his compatriot Luigi Morciano who he felt had blocked him on a fast lap. Luis Salom has work to do tomorrow from ninth and will have Hector Faubel right behind him in tenth.
Danny Webb continued to toil on the Mahindra but could only manage 32nd, one place ahead of his new teammate Riccardo Moretti.