Kevin Magnussen took his first pole in Formula Renault 3.5 at Spa on Saturday morning. The Dane dueled with ISR's Sam Bird for much of the session, and eventually out the Briton by seven hundredths of a second.
Bird looked to continue his impressive Monaco form by heading the timesheets after his initial opening laps but Magnussen, who performed well in Friday's practice sessions, snatched back the initiative three minutes later to claim his maiden pole.
And Magnussen acknowledged he had to draw on all his reserves to be fastest in the Ardennes forest.
The Carlin driver said: “I said yesterday that I couldn't make the slightest mistake if I wanted to set a good time.
“I have to say without being too pretentious that my lap this morning was perfect!
“It's great to set pole on this circuit that really sorts out the men from the boys. The championship won't be decided today, and while it's true I'm on pole I'll have to see the flag as I need points.”
For Bird, who heads the championship, getting onto the front row was critical after admitting the qualifying session was problematic.
“I didn't have the greatest session,” said Bird. “I kept running into traffic. On my quickest lap I passed a car in the second sector, which doesn't help when you want to set a time, and I made a tiny mistake in the final chicane.
“We know we have a good race car. There's no point for pole so it's essential to be on the front row.”
Behind them sits Magnussen's fellow countryman Marco Sorensen, who was just two tenths shy of pole in the Lotus.
He said: “My aim was to be in the top five and starting from third is perfect. I pushed a bit too hard on my flying lap.
“I was too hard on the tyres and I felt the effect of this on the car in the last sector.”
Jules Bianchi completed the second row for Tech 1, with the Fortec cars on row three with Carlos Huertas heading Robin Frijns.