Nico Rosberg grabbed a crucial pole position ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the build-up to the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
For the 11th time this season Rosberg again held the upper hand in qualifying over Hamilton, who was forced to settle for second best at the Yas Marina circuit.
Hamilton was quickest in the first and second sessions, yet it was Rosberg who pulled out the vital lap when it mattered most in the top-10 shoot-out with a time of one minute 40.480secs - four tenths of a second faster than the Briton.
Heading into qualifying the Mercedes duo had found themselves head and shoulders above their rivals, but come the one-lap clash they came under pressure from Williams.
In Q2, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were sandwiched by the duo, with Hamilton out in front and Rosberg down in fourth.
Rosberg needs a helping hand from either man in the race as he can take the title with a victory, providing Hamilton is third or worse.
But the Williams pair could only manage third and fourth on the grid, with the Finn just under two tenths of a second behind Hamilton and less than a tenth ahead of Massa.
It means there may yet be a twist in the tail in this season-long battle between the Mercedes pair, with Hamilton's 17-point cushion over Rosberg under threat given double points are controversially on offer for this race.
Assessing the situation, Rosberg said: "It was a great day again today, it all worked out well.
"I put a good lap together in the end, but it's only one very small step. It's about the championship, not about the pole.
"I was hoping for a Williams to be between us, it didn't happen, but hopefully that can be the case tomorrow.
"My mindset now is I need to get the job done, to continue with the form I showed at the last race in Brazil. In any case I'm sure it will be a great race."
Hamilton felt he "generally didn't have the best of laps," but added: "It was still a really good qualifying, I really enjoyed it.
"But as Nico said, tomorrow is the special day."
Bottas may yet be the fly in the ointment, although he said: "In the race Mercedes normally have a bit more in hand than they do on a Saturday, so it could be difficult.
"If something happens and we have the pace then there is no doubt we can move forward."