An inspired Lewis Hamilton romped to a dominant pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix as Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg pipped the Red Bulls to take 2nd.
Hamilton had set a blistering pace in practice, and he carried that momentum into qualifying, topping all three sessions. The Briton clocked a scintillating 1:32.8 in Q3, winding up four tenths quicker than title rival Rosberg.
The German, though, will be relieved to be on the front row after an error-strewn first run meant he was only fifth heading into the closing minutes, and he survived an error at the final corner to grab P2.
It was an impressive performance from Max Verstappen as he took third ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, finishing within two tenths of Rosberg as Red Bull once again edged their battle with Ferrari.
2015 Sepang winner Sebastian Vettel could only manage P5, with Kimi Raikkonen joining him on row three, lapping only a few hundredths slower.
Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg took seventh and eighth for Force India, another boost for the Silverstone outfit as they look to defeat Williams in the battle for fourth in the constructors' standings.
Jenson Button marked his 300th Grand Prix with a strong performance, making it into Q3 and ultimately taking ninth place, pipped by the Force Indias at the death. Felipe Massa out-qualified team-mate Valtteri Bottas to round out the top ten.
Bottas was dumped out in the dying stages of Q2 and was therefore forced to settle for P11 ahead of Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez, while Kevin Magnussen, said to be driving to save his career, claimed a solid 14th.
It was a difficult day for Toro Rosso, with Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz set to start alongside each other on row eight after managing only 15th and 16th respectively.
Last-gasp improvements in Q1 were not enough to propel Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr into the second part of qualifying, while there was a fresh setback for Jolyon Palmer as an error at the final corner cost the under-pressure Briton a Q2 spot.
Esteban Ocon took P20, out-qualifying Pascal Wehrlein for the first time since his mid-season move to Manor, with Fernando Alonso choosing to register just a single uncompetitive lap given his substantial engine penalty.