Esteban Ocon claimed his maiden pole in the GP3 series at Sochi, prevailing amid a rush of late improvements on a drying track.
The Frenchman became just the third driver to top a GP3 qualifying session in 2015 and closed the gap to points leader Luca Ghiotto to 10 points in the process.
Times were tumbling down throughout most of the 30-minute session as the track surface was damp, if appropriate for slicks.
As such, a several drivers opted to focus on the final third of the session, with Ghiotto's championship rivals Bernstorff, Ocon and Kirchhofer spending most of qualifying without the representative time on the board - while the Italian himself sat in first place.
Local driver Konstantin Tereshchenko moved to the top with five minutes to go, but he was 2.5s off the benchmark just two minutes later as Ocon went quickest.
The Frenchman was then deposed by Alex Palou before Ghiotto reclaimed the top spot by almost eight tenths with a 1m54.723s.
Ocon, in turn, responded with a 1m54.100s and Ghiotto, failing to improve with his subsequent lap, then ended up taking the chequered flag.
Instead, it was Ceccon who took provisional pole after the flag, moving past Ocon by 0.082, but the Frenchman, despite a mistake in sector three, was back into the lead yet again.
And while Tuscher subsequently moved to the front row, just 0.04s behind the Frenchman, Ocon's 1m53.921s stood as the benchmark at the session end.
Ceccon ended up third, ahead of Palou and the British duo of Jann Mardenborough and Matt Parry.
Ghiotto and Bernstorff were just seventh and eighth, while Antonio Fuoco and Seb Morris made up the top 10.
Championship contender Kirchhofer was just 16th, behind newcomers Michele Beretta and Tereshchenko, 12th and 15th respectively.