(CNN) -- Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position for Sunday's title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, pipping championship rival Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren.
Championship leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, who needs to finish second or better to clinch the title, was third fastest, sharing the second row with Hamilton's teammate Jenson Button.
But Australian Mark Webber, the closest challenger to Alonso at eight points adrift, has work to do after only claiming fifth fastest. Ferrari's Felipe Massa qualified sixth.
"I could not get the pace," Webber told BBC Sport.
"We are still in the hunt, that's the main thing. It is disappointing but there is still a long way to go. The fat lady has not sung yet."
As befits a championship finale, qualifying at the Yas Marina circuit proved exciting until the end with Vettel holding off an inspired Hamilton by just 0.031 seconds.
It was the German's 10th pole of the season and boosts his chances of claiming the F1 title, but he trails Alonso by 15 points and will need to translate his qualifying dominance into a victory.
2008 champion Hamilton has only a mathematical chance of winning his second crown, but has been consistently quick in both practice and Saturday's qualifying.
Brazilian Rubens Barrichello of Williams will share the fourth row of the grid with his old Ferrari teammate German Michael Schumacher, the seven-time champion for once out qualifying his Mercedes compatriot Nico Rosberg.
Russia's Vitaly Petrov took the final top ten spot for Renault under the lights.
Two-time champion Alonso remained confident, but said Sunday's race was what mattered.
"I am just concentrating for the race, it is what we are here for - there is one more day to go and today we did nothing, just the qualifying," said the Spaniard..
"I will try to make a good start and if I can I will attack, but if not, then I may have to defend.
"But it is always the case that you cannot win the title in the first corner, but you can lose it. I have felt confident for six months and I am still confident."