Pons Racing rider Alex Rins narrowly held on to his fourth Moto2 pole in a session that was disrupted by a big crash for Efren Vazquez.
With the track fully dry despite earlier showers, practice pacesetter Rins made a statement right away, putting in a 2m08.850s lap within the first 10 minutes of the 45-minute session.
And during the first half of qualifying, it was only Lowes who got within a second of Rins' lap, going 0.264s slower.
Shortly thereafter, Takaaki Nakagami moved up to third, three-quarters of a second down on the session leader.
In improving, the Japanese rider passed Jonas Folger - who was improving himself, but got held up by Mattia Pasini late in the lap, the German subsequently shaking his fist at the Italian.
The status quo remained until 10 minutes were left on the clock, when rookie Vazquez - the sole Suter rider in the field - fell at Turn 7, the Spaniard's crash bringing out the red flag as he had been knocked unconscious and had to be treated by the medical staff.
With Vazquez taken to the medical centre in an ambulance and regaining consciousness, the session resumed 12 minutes after it had been stopped.
Neither Rins, nor Lowes improved on their first attempts, allowing the field to close in on the duo, with Swiss duo of Dominique Aegerter and Thomas Luthi moving to within a tenth of Lowes.
The big challenge to Rins, however, came from reigning champion Johann Zarco, who was up on the Spaniard's session-best lap through the first three sectors after the chequered flag - before settling for runner-up at the line, two tenths down.
Lowes wound up taking third, ahead of Aegerter, Luthi and Nakagami, who denied Folger a second-row spot at the chequered flag.
Simone Corsi, at 0.571s off the leader, was the last rider within a second of pole in eighth, with Franco Morbidelli making up row three and Sandro Cortese in 10th.
It was a miserable outing for Alex Marquez, brother of two-time MotoGP champion Marc. The 2014 Moto3 champion battled for a top-10 spot early in the session, but slipped down to 21st by the end.
|1||Alex Rins||Paginas Amarillas HP 40||Kalex||2:08.850|
|2||Johann Zarco||Ajo Motorsport||Kalex||2:09.066|
|3||Sam Lowes||Gresini Racing||Kalex||2:09.100|
|4||Dominique Aegerter||Technomag Racing Interwetten||Kalex||2:09.163|
|5||Thomas Luthi||Garage Plus Interwetten||Kalex||2:09.171|
|6||Takaaki Nakagami||Idemitsu Honda Team Asia||Kalex||2:09.206|
|7||Jonas Folger||Dynavolt Intact GP||Kalex||2:09.226|
|8||Simone Corsi||Speed Up Racing||Speed Up||2:09.421|
|9||Franco Morbidelli||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS||Kalex||2:09.910|
|10||Sandro Cortese||Dynavolt Intact GP||Kalex||2:09.940|
|11||Julian Simon||QMMF Racing Team||Speed Up||2:09.999|
|12||Lorenzo Baldassarri||Forward Racing||Kalex||2:10.012|
|13||Marcel Schrötter||AGR Team||Kalex||2:10.039|
|14||Luis Salom||SAG Team||Kalex||2:10.103|
|15||Axel Pons||AGR Team||Kalex||2:10.236|
|16||Danny Kent||Leopard Racing||Kalex||2:10.274|
|17||Hafizh Syahrin||Petronas Raceline Malaysia Team Honda||Kalex||2:10.292|
|18||Xavier Simeon||QMMF Racing Team||Speed Up||2:10.299|
|19||Mattia Pasini||Italtrans Racing Team||Kalex||2:10.375|
|20||Miguel Oliveira||Leopard Racing||Kalex||2:10.405|
|21||Alex Marquez||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS||Kalex||2:10.418|
|22||Luca Marini||Forward Racing||Kalex||2:10.453|
|23||Xavi Vierge||Tech 3 Racing||Tech 3||2:10.705|
|24||Ratthapark Wilairot||Idemitsu Honda Team Asia||Kalex||2:10.734|
|25||Isaac Viñales||Tech 3 Racing||Tech 3||2:11.297|
|27||Robin Mulhauser||Technomag Racing Interwetten||Kalex||2:12.202|
|28||Alessandro Tonucci||Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2||Kalex||2:12.801|
|29||Efren Vazquez||JPMoto Malaysia||Suter||2:12.962|