Fernando Alonso took pole for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix at Monza, edging McLaren team-mate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton into second.
Alonso trails Hamilton by five points in the championship standings
Alonso clocked a fastest lap of one minute 21.997 seconds, just 0.037sec ahead of his British rival.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa was third, with German Nick Heidfeld guiding his BMW Sauber to a surprise fourth spot.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth after escaping unhurt from a 200mph crash in the final practice session.
The Finn veered right at the approach to the left-hand Curva del Vialone and his car was destroyed on impact with the wall along the Curva del Serraglio.
Robert Kubica starts sixth in his BMW Sauber, with Jenson Button 10th in his Honda.
It is only the second time this season Button has qualified in the top 10, representing a significant improvement for the Briton.
On his home track, Giancarlo Fisichella starts from a season-low 15th - eight places below rookie team-mate Heikki Kovalainen.
That will hardly enamour Renault boss Flavio Briatore, who is in the process of deciding the team's driver line-up for 2008.
I've had many second places, but finally I have pole
David Coulthard's qualifying woes continued as he bowed out in his Red Bull after the first qualifying session.
Behind him are the lowly Spykers, who despite running their new, improved B-spec cars at this track, again bring up the rear of the field with Adrian Sutil ahead of Sakon Yamamoto.
Two-time world champion Alonso, who trails Hamilton by five points in the standings, claims his first pole since Monaco and his second of the season.
"I've been doing some good qualifying sessions, but always in Q3 I have had some problems and not been quick enough to be on pole," said the Spaniard.
"I've had many second places, but finally I have pole. We've been quick all weekend, we're extremely quick here at Monza.
"Hopefully we can do our job in the race and finish ahead of everyone."
When questioned on the atmosphere within the team given all that surrounds McLaren at present, he replied: "The team has been quite focused, in this race especially.
The one-two is great for the team... it shows how hard we are working, especially back at the factory
"Turkey was a disappointing race and weekend. We were not quick enough to push the Ferraris.
"But we've taken a step forward in the car, and hopefully step by step between here and the end of the championship, the car will continue to improve."
Hamilton conceded to enjoying "a good battle" with Alonso, adding: "The one-two is great for the team. It is the fifth time we have had the front row locked down.
"It shows how hard we are working, especially back at the factory."
Massa, who won convincingly in Istanbul, knows he now faces a fight on his hand to follow up that victory.
"McLaren are very quick here, especially as they showed in qualifying," remarked Massa, who won in Turkey.
"It's good to be top three and hopefully we can have some difference or some surprise in the race."
Button was pleased to claim 10th place on the grid but was keen to keep expectations in check.
"It is a little step forward but we are not going to start picking up good points this season," said Button.
"Though it gives a boost to everyone working hard on the car at the factory."
Provisional result from qualifying:
1. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 1 minute 21.997 secs
2. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1:22.034
3. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1:22.549
4. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) BMW Sauber 1:23.174
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1:23.183
6. Robert Kubica (Poland) BMW Sauber 1:23.446
7. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Renault 1:24.102
8. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams - Toyota 1:24.382
9. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota 1:24.555
10. Jenson Button (Britain) Honda 1:25.165
11. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1:23.166
12. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Honda 1:23.176
13. Alexander Wurz (Austria) Williams - Toyota 1:23.209
14. Anthony Davidson (Britain) Super Aguri - Honda 1:23.274
15. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Renault 1:23.325
16. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:23.351
17. Takuma Sato (Japan) Super Aguri - Honda 1:23.749
18. Ralf Schumacher (Germany) Toyota 1:23.787
19. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Italy) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:23.886
20. David Coulthard (Britain) RedBull - Renault 1:24.019
21. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Spyker - Ferrari 1:24.699
22. Sakon Yamamoto (Japan) Spyker - Ferrari 1:25.084