Sebastian Vettel boosted his slim hopes of denying Lewis Hamilton the Formula One world title, securing the 50th pole position of his career at the Mexican Grand Prix as the champion-elect qualified third.
Ferrari's Vettel is 66 points behind Hamilton in the drivers' standings with only 75 points to play for, meaning the Mercedes driver needs only to finish at least fifth on Sunday to open up an unassailable advantage.
However, it was Vettel who had the edge in qualifying as he produced a blistering lap - timed at one minute and 16.488 seconds - to deny Max Verstappen a maiden pole.
Verstappen had been the quickest man by a wide margin in Q2 and initially set the pace in Q3, only to be pipped by 0.086 seconds courtesy of Vettel's impressive final run.
Hamilton was a somewhat distant third, almost half a second off the pace, but could yet be elevated to the front row, with race stewards poised to investigate Verstappen for potentially impeding Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen were fourth and fifth respectively as Force India's Esteban Ocon produced a superb performance to qualify sixth ahead of Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Since the Mexican Grand Prix returned to the F1 calendar in 2015, both races have been won by the man starting on pole, with Hamilton the man to triumph from the front of the grid last year.
"It was quite a lap, I have to say," said a grinning Vettel.
"Overnight we improved - we had a lot of things that we worked on and changed, and they all worked. For now, I'm really happy."
Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly did not participate in qualifying after suffering engine trouble in Saturday's final practice session.
Gasly was already set to start at the back of the field due to a hefty grid penalty, along with McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:16.488
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.086s
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.446s
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.470s
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +0.750s
6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +0.949s
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +0.959s
8. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +0.978s
9. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +1.306s
10. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1.319s