Lewis Hamilton scored a crucial pole position for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
The world champion produced two excellent middle sectors in Q3 to improve on both his laps, finally setting a 1:10.736 and holding off the challenge of Nico Rosberg.
The German had looked concerned by the initial gap to his teammate after the first run, but proved why he has been so strong in 2016 by quickly analysing the situation and putting maximum pressure on Hamilton.
But the Briton, who has had the edge pretty much throughout this weekend, had the pace when it mattered.
The two Mercedes held a six-tenth advantage over their rivals as Red Bull and Ferrari battled to be ‘best of the rest’.
Kimi Raikkonen would take that honour after an impressive final lap to beat Max Verstappen into third. Sebastian Vettel was a hundredth of a second behind the Dutchman in fifth with Daniel Ricciardo having a subdued day in sixth.
The midfield battle was fierce and produced several surprises, none more so than Williams failing to get either car into Q3.
The two Haas’ and Fernando Alonso spoiled the party as Felipe Massa will only start 13th for his final home race and Valtteri Bottas was 11th.
Romain Grosjean’s performance was most notable as he would beat the two Force India’s to claim seventh, joining Red Bull and Ferrari in breaking the 1:12 barrier.
Nico Hulkenberg just edged Sergio Perez as they were eighth and ninth while Alonso once again hauled the McLaren into the top 10.
Things would not be so rosy, however, for the Spaniard’s teammate Jenson Button.
Poor balance on his car meant he was a surprise casualty in the first part of qualifying and will start 17th.
Esteban Gutierrez was the meat in the Williams sandwich in 12th with the two Toro Rosso’s somewhat by themselves unable to challenge those in front but comfortably clear of those behind as Daniil Kvyat outpaced Carlos Sainz.
Jolyon Palmer took advantage of Button’s problem to make Q2 once again in 16th, out-classing teammate Kevin Magnussen who was 18th.
At the back the two Manor’s enjoyed some success as they beat the two Sauber’s with Pascal Wehrlein beating Esteban Ocon, which will give the German a little satisfaction.
Marcus Ericsson made it a disappointing day for both Brazilian drivers as he led Felipe Nasr meaning he will start last for his home race.
Back at the front, and the big question now is can Lewis Hamilton finally end his duck around Interlagos?
Having never won in Brazil, he knows he almost has to do that to ensure the championship goes to a decider in Abu Dhabi.
With the weather set to worsen on Sunday, as the forecast rain just about held off for qualifying, it will also add to the pressure Rosberg will be feeling to get through what is perhaps the most dangerous race for a champion-elect on the season run-in.
Get through tomorrow problem free, the German can head home breathing a huge sigh of relief and maybe even a maiden world title to his name.