Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly controlled the final qualifying session of the GP2 campaign in Abu Dhabi, claiming a crucial pole position as points leader Antonio Giovinazzi could only take sixth.
Gasly, who had set a new GP2 pole record in Abu Dhabi last year, went three tenths quicker this time around, making the most of the mid-session lull to post his benchmark lap.
Most of the drivers in the field opted to start their qualifying runs right as the pitlane light turned green, with title contenders Giovinazzi and Raffaele Marciello among the last ones to head out.
Gasly, however, remained sat in his car in the pitlane, his Dallara GP2/11 stood motionless long after everyone else had ventured onto the track.
As the Frenchman stayed put, erstwhile championship leader Sergey Sirotkin took the top spot after the first set of proper flying laps, logging a 1m48.464s.
Giovinazzi took second with a 1m48.735s and, as teammate Gasly finally headed out on track, the Italian improved to a 1m48.583s but stayed behind Sirotkin.
With Giovinazzi and the drivers of all other teams preparing for a second run in the pits, Gasly embarked on his first push lap on an empty track, at the halfway point of the session.
The Frenchman looked in trouble with his car's DRS opening and closing several times in the braking zone at Turn 8 – but the laptime was largely unaffected, Gasly stringing together three purple sectors to go almost a second clear of Sirotkin, on a 1m47.476s.
With five minutes to go, second runs began in earnest as Oliver Rowland moved up to second, before the ART pair of Sirotkin and Nobuharu Matsushita deposed him to fourth, both joining Gasly in the 1m47s margin.
Giovinazzi had been demoted to fifth and, while he improved on his final lap as the chequered flag fell, he could not move up the order - and was in fact demoted to sixth by a last-gasp effort from Artem Markelov.
Gasly himself, meanwhile, had scuppered a promising lap on his second set by locking up hard at Turn 8 - but he was untroubled in the end, finishing more than three tenths up on Sirotkin, with Markelov and Matsushita on row two.
Rowland and Giovinazzi will share row three, ahead of Norman Nato, Marciello, Alex Lynn and Mitch Evans.
Gasly's pole means he is now just three points adrift of Giovinazzi in the standings, with Marciello holding on to slim mathematical chances of the crown.