Colin Turkington snatched pole position from Jason Plato in the final moments of a tense qualifying session for the fourth British Touring Car Championship round at Oulton Park.
Plato held the advantage for much of the session until the final 10 minutes after a red flag stoppage, but Northern Irishman Turkington grabbed pole position in his final two efforts from the MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save BTCC Team driver.
Cars enjoyed the best conditions of the day in their 30-minute qualifying session, Rob Austin recovering from an early trip across the Knickerbrook chicane grass to set the ball rolling as cars gingerly tested the conditions.
Alain Menu briefly took the top spot away before Plato began to pump in a sequence of hot laps that at one stage put him over 1.6s out of reach. Team-mate Sam Tordoff trimmed the gap to half a second shortly afterwards, and remained the main threat to his MG rival in the first half of the session.
The times continued to fall as the drivers adapted to the drying conditions, Plato and Tordoff remaining at the top despite threat posed by Gordon Shedden in the Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Tourer.
The battle was poised to run for the final 10 minutes until Adam Morgan suffered an off at Druids, the WIX Racing Mercedes firmly planting itself in the tyre barriers to bring out the red flags.
Morgan recovered back to the pits, after which the green flags were finally waved once again in a day full of stoppages to signal a 10-minute fight for pole position.
Plato held the advantage by just over half a second from his MG team-mate Tordoff, but that was trimmed before the green flag as he had his fastest time removed for disrespecting track limits.
Turkington snatched the pole away from Plato with minutes remaining, both Plato and himself improving on their final two laps but with the eBay Motors BMW man coming out on top by 0.649s with a time of 1m42.310s.
Shedden, Rob Collard and Tordoff rounded out the top five, ahead of Austin and Mat Jackson – the latter recovering after also having a fastest lap removed.
Marc Hynes, Tom Ingram and Nick Foster rounded out the top 10, while Andrew Jordan could only manage 12th place in the Pirtek Racing Honda Civic.
Matt Neal did not fair much better, his best time removed and landing the Honda driver 14th for tomorrow’s first race.
Races get underway tomorrow at 12:17, 14:29 and 16:57, and you can follow all the BTCC and support race action this weekend with thecheckeredflag.co.uk.