Briton Lewis Hamilton will start second in Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix as he attempts to become the first driver to win the title in his debut season.
Hamilton will take the title if he wins or comes second on Sunday
Hamilton, aiming for his fifth win of the year, finished 0.151 seconds behind Ferrari's Felipe Massa in qualifying.
Kimi Raikkonen, currently third in the drivers' standings, will start from the second row at Interlagos.
Fernando Alonso, who can take his third successive title if he wins with Hamilton third or lower, goes fourth.
We've got a bit of work to do but nothing too serious and it will be a good, clean fight for the championship
Hamilton, 22, will become Britain's first world champion since Damon Hill in 1996 if he wins or comes second in his McLaren on the Sao Paulo circuit.
Hamilton obstructed Raikkonen as he left the pits for the last time.
He apologised to Raikkonen but also maintained that, after his McLaren team warned him of the danger as he exited the pits, he had done his utmost not to affect the Finn's all important final quick lap.
"I apologise if I got in his way, but I didn't think he was that close to me," said Hamilton.
"I stayed where I was and braked. I didn't feel I hindered his lap, and I did get out of the way."
Raikkonen hinted that Hamilton might have handled things differently.
"For sure it didn't help - I ran wide after I went beside him and lost some time.
"I don't know exactly how much time we lost but for sure there could have been a slightly easier way to let me past.
"But it is what it is now. I would rather be in the front, but third is an OK place to start the race from."
Hamilton leads McLaren team-mate Alonso by four points, with Ferrari's Raikkonen a further three back entering the defining weekend of a thrilling championship.
Raikkonen, Massa and Hamilton were the three fastest in qualifying
McLaren boss Ron Dennis said of Hamilton: "It's almost all in his hands now. We've got a bit of work to do but nothing too serious and it will be a good, clean fight for the championship."
Home town hero Massa was fastest in Saturday morning practice and for much of the qualifying session.
Massa celebrated with an extra lap after qualifying finished, which will affect the amount of fuel he has available for the race.
"It's a great feeling to be back in Brazil and on pole," said the home favourite.
"I was a a little bit afraid Lewis would beat me on the second flying lap. The atmopshere is always amazing here with all the Brazil flags waving.
"We had a fantastic weekend last year and hopefully we can finish this race in similar fashion."
Scot David Coulthard will go off 9th in his Red Bull-Renault. Of his fellow Brits, Honda's Jenson Button missed out at the second stage and will start 16th, while Anthony Davidson takes 20th spot.
Renault's Heikki Kovalainen, seventh place in the drivers' championship, will start in 17th place after being eliminated at the Q1 stage for just the second time this season following a late mistake.
Hamilton escaped any personal sanctions after his McLaren team fitted two sets of wet-weather tyres to his car during the first practice session on Friday.
McLaren were fined 15,000 euros (£10,445) and made to return one set of wet tyres but with dry weather forecast for Sunday's race, that setback should not prove too damaging.
Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying times:
1. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1 min 11.931 secs
2. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1:12.082
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1:12.322
4. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 1:12.356
5. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1:12.928
6. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) BMW Sauber 1:13.081
7. Robert Kubica (Poland) BMW Sauber 1:13.129
8. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota 1:13.195
9. David Coulthard (Britain) RedBull - Renault 1:13.272
10. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams - Toyota 1:13.477
11. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Honda 1:12.932
12. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Renault 1:12.968
13. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:13.058
14. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Italy) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:13.251
15. Ralf Schumacher (Germany) Toyota 1:13.351
16. Jenson Button (Britain) Honda 1:13.469
17. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Renault 1:14.078
18. Takuma Sato (Japan) Super Aguri - Honda 1:14.098
19. Kazuki Nakajima (Japan) Williams - Toyota 1:14.417
20. Anthony Davidson (Britain) Super Aguri - Honda 1:14.596
21. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Spyker - Ferrari 1:15.217
22. Sakon Yamamoto (Japan) Spyker - Ferrari 1:15.487