MotoGP championship leader Casey Stoner claimed his eighth pole position of the season at the San Marino and Rimini Riviera Grand Prix.
The Australian clocked one minute, 33.138 seconds on his Honda, way ahead of home favourite Valentino Rossi.
Rossi, the seven-time champion from Italy, has struggled with Ducati this season and only came 11th in 1:34.676.
Spaniards Jorge Lorenzo (1:33.258) and Dani Pedrosa (1:33.318) qualified second and third, respectively.
With five races remaining after this weekend and wins worth 25 points each, Stoner holds a 44-point lead over Lorenzo in the standings.
Stoner won last weekend's race at Indianapolis to further tighten his grip on this season's championship battle.
"It's been a good weekend, it's going to be a really hard race tomorrow and I think it's going to be a bit of a battle - Jorge and Dani are very close to us," said Stoner.
"The team has done a good job, the bike feels pretty good and we managed to get some good times.
"I think we can more or less fight with the Hondas on Sunday," added Lorenzo, who traded fastest laps with Stoner until the Australian clocked his best time with 15 minutes of qualifying remaining.
"They have been so quick that you must be more than 100% to compete with them."
San Marino Grand Prix MotoGP qualification result on Saturday:
1. Casey Stoner (Aus) Honda 1 min 33.138 secs
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Spa) Yamaha 1:33.258
3. Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Honda 1:33.318
4. Ben Spies (US) Yamaha 1:33.947
5. Marco Simoncelli (Ita) Honda 1:33.990
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Ita) Honda 1:34.026
7. Colin Edwards (US) Yamaha 1:34.054
8. Alvaro Bautista (Spa) Suzuki 1:34.360
9. Hector Barbera (Spa) Ducati 1:34.592
10. Hiroshi Aoyama (Jpn) Honda 1:34.637