McLaren's Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton seized a last-gasp pole position for the Italian Grand Prix from Force India's Adrian Sutil in Monza on Saturday.
"It was a very close qualifying session and I'm very happy to see Adrian up here," said the Briton of his friend and former Formula Three team-mate.
"I don't think we anticipated being as quick as we are this week, so it's a bonus for all the team."
The pole was Hamilton's second of the season, second in three races and 15th in 48 starts.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen will line up in third place for Sunday's race with fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen next to him in a McLaren. Unlike Sutil, both will have the benefit of a boost at the start from their KERS energy recovery systems.
Championship leader Jenson Button qualified sixth, with Brawn GP team mate and closest title rival Rubens Barrichello alongside him in fifth place.
"The car felt good and that's important. It's not just qualifying, it's the race," said Button, who had been quickest in the second session.
The Red Bulls of Germany's Sebastian Vettel and Australian Mark Webber, respectively third and fourth in the championship, qualified ninth and 10th respectively.
Britain's Button is 16 points clear of Brazilian Barrichello with five races remaining.
Sutil's grid position was the highest of the German's career, with fast-improving Force India getting both their Mercedes-powered cars into the final session of qualifying for the first time.
Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi, replacing compatriot Giancarlo Fisichella at the team, qualified seventh for his first race since he was at Toro Rosso in 2007.
"This is a great moment, a great day for me," said Sutil. "The car is amazing, really quick, unbelievable.
"It's so good for the team after the big success in Spa. We just continue it here. There's just such a different feeling in the car right now." Fisichella, who handed Force India a stunning pole position in Belgium last month and finished second for the team's first points, will start 14th in his first race for champions Ferrari after crashing in final practice.
"This morning it was my error...I could do it (in qualifying), the car was there, I just didn't manage to do a great lap," said the Italian.
There was disappointment for BMW-Sauber, with both Germany's Nick Heidfeld and Poland's Robert Kubica pulling over in the second session with engine problems.
Qualifying result for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza:
1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren-Mercedes 1min 24.066secs
2. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India-Mercedes 1:24.261
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1:24.523
4. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) McLaren - Mercedes 1:24.845
5. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Brawn - Mercedes 1:25.015
6. Jenson Button (Britain) Brawn - Mercedes 1:25.030
7. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Italy) Force India-Mercedes 1:25.043
8. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Renault 1:25.072
9. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull - Renault 1:25.180
10. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1:25.314
11. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota 1:23.611
12. Romain Grosjean (France) Renault 1:23.728
13. Robert Kubica (Poland) BMW Sauber 1:23.866
14. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Ferrari 1:23.901
15. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) BMW Sauber 1:24.275
16. Timo Glock (Germany) Toyota 1:24.036
17. Kazuki Nakajima (Japan) Williams - Toyota 1:24.074
18. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams - Toyota 1:24.121
19. Sebastien Buemi (Switzerland) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:24.220
20. Jaime Alguersuari (Spain) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:24.951