Ferrari's Felipe Massa starts Sunday's French Grand Prix in pole position after beating McLaren's Lewis Hamilton into second in Saturday qualifying.
Massa claimed his fourth pole of the season
Massa's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen is third but Fernando Alonso's McLaren was hit by mechanical problems will go off 10th when the race starts at 1300 BST.
Brazilian Massa clocked one minute 15.034 seconds for the 4.411km circuit, just 0.070secs ahead of Hamilton.
Hamilton leads the standings by 10 points from Spanish team-mate Alonso.
Massa's pole was his fourth of the season and seventh of his career, suggesting Ferrari are becoming a real threat again at Magny-Cours.
But the biggest story of the day surrounded Alonso, who suffered his lowest qualifying position since September's Italian Grand Prix.
The Spaniard endured a troubled morning as he spent most of the hour in the garage as mechanics had to replace the brake-sensor system.
It was not until the dying minutes he finally emerged on track, so when a problem occurred at the start of Q3, it was clear the gremlins had bitten again.
We are on the front row and we've got a good strategy for tomorrow; I'm sure we will be very competitive
It appears his best chance of making his way though the field on Sunday is if conditions are wet at Magny-Cours.
"I will pray for rain tonight," said the 25-year-old. "We know wet conditions are difficult and produce mixed results.
"But if you are quick in the dry, you can be two or three tenths quicker than the guy in front.
"If you are quick in the wet, maybe it's two seconds so you can make up places much, much quicker.
"So I really hope it's wet tomorrow because it might lead to some uncertainties we might be able to benefit from."
In contrast, team-mate and championship leader Hamilton was in upbeat mood despite missing out on pole.
"You can't be perfect all the time but the team has done a fantastic job," said the 22-year-old Briton.
"I had the car for pole but I lost a bit of time at turn 15, but I'm very happy.
"We are on the front row and we've got a good strategy for tomorrow. I'm sure we will be very competitive."
Even Ferrari's apparent revival failed to faze Hamilton.
"Everyone makes improvements and steps forward," he said. "Ferrari have done that, but I still believe we have the best car and we just have to prove that tomorrow."
Massa is delighted to have a competitive car again, saying: "It's great for us to be back fighting after what has happened.
"I wouldn't say we are completely in front of our competitors, but we are back fighting, which is really encouraging, and I'm happy to be starting again from pole.
"Hopefully we can have a car all the time to be at the front, or at least fighting."
Behind the front three came Robert Kubica for BMW Sauber, followed by the Renaults of Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen.
Nick Heidfeld is seventh in the second BMW Sauber, with Jarno Trulli eighth in his Toyota and the Williams of Nico Rosberg in ninth.
Earlier in qualifying, the unreliability of the Red Bulls again came home to roost, with David Coulthard forced to abandon the second session with a mechanical problem, which means he will start in 16th.
For fellow Briton Anthony Davidson, who broke the nose of his Super Aguri car on the left-rear tyre of Liuzzi's Toro Rosso in the pitlane in practice on Friday, it was his worst qualifying performance of the season as he finished in 20th.
Official qualifying result:
1. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1:15.034
2. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1:15.104
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1:15.257
4. Robert Kubica (Poland) BMW Sauber 1:15.493
5. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Renault 1:15.674
6. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Renault 1:15.826
7. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) BMW Sauber 1:15.900
8. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota 1:15.935
9. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams-Toyota 1:16.328
10. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren
11. Ralf Schumacher (Germany) Toyota 1:15.534
12. Jenson Button (Britain) Honda 1:15.584
13. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Honda 1:15.761
14. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull-Renault 1:15.806
15. Scott Speed (U.S.) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:16.049
16. David Coulthard (Britain) RedBull-Renault
17. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Italy) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:16.142
18. Alexander Wurz (Austria) Williams-Toyota 1:16.241
19. Anthony Davidson (Britain) Super Aguri-Honda 1:16.366
20. Christijan Albers (Netherlands) Spyker-Ferrari 1:17.826
21. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Spyker-Ferrari 1:17.915
22. Takuma Sato (Japan)* Super Aguri-Honda 1:16.244
*awarded a 10-place penalty after overtaking under yellow flag conditions at US Grand Prix