Australian Mark Webber led a Red Bull front row sweep on Saturday and denied team mate and Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel a fifth successive Japanese Grand Prix pole position.
Webber, in his last season in the sport, lapped the figure-of-eight Suzuka circuit with a best time of one minute 30.915 seconds.
Vettel, who can clinch his fourth world title in a row on Sunday if he wins and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finishes lower than eighth, had problems with his car's kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) and lines up second after lapping in 1:31.089.
"It was pretty good. Sebastian had a problem in qualifying so it's a little bit of a hollow pole position if you like," said Webber of his first pole position since South Korea in October last year.
"But I'm happy to be on pole and you've got to grab that opportunity when you can.
"We did the laps when they counted, and it's a very nice farewell for me on my final time here at Suzuka and on a phenomenal circuit," the Australian added.
"It was a real highlight for me. I think in general we've got a good car for the race."
Lewis Hamilton, for Mercedes, and Romain Grosjean in a Lotus, share the second row with Alonso qualifying only eighth while Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa starts fifth at a circuit where he finished runner-up last year.
Webber's 12th career pole marked the first time this season he has out-qualified Vettel, who arrived in Japan after three successive starts from the top spot.
It remains to be seen whether the Australian will be allowed to fight for the win on Sunday, however, with Webber out of contention for the title and leaving the team.
Vettel was fastest on Friday but struggled with KERS problems on Saturday morning, when he sat out the end of final practice while the team changed the battery.
Team principal Christian Horner said the problem had clearly not been resolved: "Unfortunately Seb didn't have KERS. So with that deficit, to get on the front row was really a success," he told reporters.
Qualifying was halted in the first phase for