Michael Rutter had to dig deep to secure a last-gasp provisional pole position for the 50th running of the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix on Thursday.
The Bathams/SMT Racing rider had looked to be comfortably clear of his rivals after laying down an early benchmark on his BMW.
With no one able to get near his time over the first half of the session, Rutter appeared relaxed as he returned to the pits.
But with less than 10-minute of the qualifying session, Martin Jessop responded brilliantly on his BMW to Rutter’s time.
Jessop’s first flying lap moved him up second place – six tenths adrift of Rutter – before a following lap was good enough to move him to the top of the timesheets and six tenths clear of his rival.
By this time Rutter was back on track and, after aborting a first attempt at a flying lap, the eight-time Macau GP winner pulled it all together to produce a stunning effort on his last effort.
As he took the chequered flag, he was 0.990 seconds clear of Jessop.
Ian Hutchinson ended up third after setting his best time 20 minutes before the end of the session, while John McGuinness ended up fourth quickest with a strong lap in the final minute.
Behind him, Gary Johnson was fifth and Hort Saiger sixth.
Final qualifying for the Macau motorcycle GP takes place on Friday morning, ahead of the race on Saturday.