(CNN) -- Felipe Massa boosted his challenge for the drivers' world championship title when he claimed pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the final qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix.
Massa hurtles round the Marina Bay circuit under the floodlights.
Overtaking is unlikely to be easy on the Marina Bay street circuit so drivers starting up front should have a major advantage.
Ferrari's Massa lapped in 1:44.801, 0.664 of a second ahead of the British McLaren driver, who is one point in front of his rival in the title race with four Grand Prix left.
Defending world champion Kimi Raikkonen, desperately needing a win to keep alive his slim hopes of retaining his title, was third fastest for Ferrari and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica was fourth in a Toro Rosso.
Heikki Kovalainen, in the second McLaren, was fifth ahead of Nick Heidfeld for BMW Sauber.
Sebastian Vettel, winner in Italy earlier this month, was seventh in his Toro Rosso with Timo Glock eighth, Nico Rosberg ninth and Kazuki Nakajima tenth.
The rain held off and drivers were able to push their cars to the limit in hot and humid conditions under the powerful spotlights illuminating the track.
But a promising day went badly wrong for the 2005-06 champion Fernando Alonso, who had topped the final practice on Friday and looked to have high hopes of taking pole position.
In the second qualifying session the engine of his Renault cut out, leaving the frustrated 19-time Grand Prix winner no option but to climb out of his car.
Alonso was not amused. He said the car had been running better than at any time this year.
"Yeah, no doubt about it. We haven't been this strong anywhere," he told reporters after a fuel pump problem had been diagnosed.
"We have been first in nearly all sessions and with an easy lap in Q1 I was sixth.
"In other races we wouldn't have lost much but here we have lost the biggest chance we had.
"The race is lost. You can't overtake here and I'm starting from 15th, so I will be going out just to lap the track, but it's over already," he said.
Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella, whose car lifted off the ground after he misjudged a chicane and hit the barriers in the practice session, repeated the performance in qualifying and will start last in the grid.
Fellow Force India driver Adrian Sutil joins him at the rear.