Tomoki Nojiri scored pole position for the Super Formula title decider at Fuji Speedway, as Nick Cassidy ended up last on the grid after being penalised for exceeding track limits.
Reigning champion Cassidy had been set to advance to Q2 with the fourth-fastest time in his Q1 group, only for the TOM'S driver to be stripped his two fastest laptimes for having all four wheels outside of the white lines exiting the fast Turn 3 left-hander.
It meant the New Zealander was demoted to 10th and bottom of the timesheets, and will start his final Super Formula race from last on the grid.
Mugen driver Nojiri meanwhile picked up his second pole of the season as he became the first driver to lap Fuji in less than 1m20s behind the wheel of a Super Formula car.
His best Q3 effort of 1m19.972s left him just 0.017s clear of Inging's Sho Tsuboi, and gives him three vital bonus points that gives him a chance of staging a major championship upset.
Victory for Nojiri would be enough to clinch the title if Naoki Yamamoto (Dandelion Racing) - who qualified third, scoring one bonus point - doesn't finish on the podium.
Ryo Hirakawa (Impul), who jointly led the standings with Yamamoto prior to qualifying, was eighth and slowest in Q3, and must finish second if Nojiri wins to claim the title.
Splitting Yamamoto and Hirakawa on the grid are Q2 pacesetter Nobuharu Matsushita (B-Max Racing), Nojiri's Mugen teammate Ukyo Sasahara, the second Dandelion car of Nirei Fukuzumi, and Toshiki Oyu in the best of the Nakajima Racing cars.
Kazuya Oshima (Inging) was the fastest driver to be eliminated in Q2 and will start ninth ahead of Yuhi Sekiguchi (Impul).
Hiroki Otsu will make his Super Formula debut starting from 15th for Nakajima Racing after being eliminated in Q1, while Kamui Kobayashi (KCMG) also dropped out in the opening segment and will start down in 17th place.
Tatiana Calderon was 19th for Drago Corse and will share the back row with Cassidy.