Aprilia's Leon Haslam took pole position in a wet qualifying session at Magny-Cours as himself and several other riders crashed in a challenging Superpole 2 session.
Haslam pipped newly-crowned champion Jonathan Rea by just 0.004s, the Kawasaki rider staying on his bike but coming up just short with his final attempt.
Ducati's Chaz Davies took the early lead in Superpole 2 on the damp track as Tom Sykes, his rival in the fight for runner-up, fell at Turn 13 and damaged his motorcycle.
Haslam then took over at the top, with Rea moving up to second and looking to take the lead away from his compatriot, but to no avail - coming up short on several attempts.
Davies also looked set to challenge for the top spot, but fell off at Turn 15 when seven tenths up on the pole benchmark.
And the session was subsequently red-flagged with Haslam in the lead when Alex Lowes suffered a heavy crash at Turn 3.
The Briton appeared knocked out for a few brief seconds after the fall, but got up and managed to walk away from the scene.
The session restarted with just less than three minutes on the clock, Haslam and Rea both getting another shot at improving their times.
And while Haslam fell on his final lap, Rea was half a second up after the first sector, only to cross the line 0.004s slower.
Niccolo Canepa was third, taking a second consecutive front row, with Davies in fourth and local rider Sylvain Guintoli taking fifth after quickly recovering from an early fall.
Ducati's replacement rider Luca Scassa was sixth after blitzing his way through Superpole 1, while Leon Camier - who also had to fight through SP1 - took seventh.
Ayrton Badovini was eighth, ahead of Sykes and wildcard Markus Reiterberger, with Lowes and Jordi Torres making up the top 12.
Michael van der Mark was the highest-profile rider to miss the SP1 cut-off and will start the weekend's races in 15th.
|7||Leon Camier||MV Agusta||1'59.768||3.364|
|15||Michael van der Mark||Honda||2'00.528||4.124|
|19||Randy de Puniet||Suzuki||2'06.621||10.217|