Jorge Martin took pole for this weekend's season-closing Valencia MotoGP after qualifying on Saturday with title favourite Francesco Bagnaia on the third row.
Ducati rider Bagnaia has one hand on his maiden world championship with a 23-point lead going into the decider from champion Fabio Quartararo.
Bagnaia said Saturday's session had not gone according to plan.
"We are struggling a bit," he said. "Me and two or three others with Ducati bikes are having the same issues."
The Italian needs finish only 14th, which brings two points, to become the first Italian to win the title since the legendary Valentino Rossi 13 years ago.
"My goal is not to win," he said.
"Tomorrow I have to stay calm and understand what's going on."
"I will take risks at the beginning," he said. "But then I will have to be intelligent."
"I will just try not to be outside the top 14."
Quartararo, who at one stage held a 91-point advantage over his Italian rival, posted the fourth fastest qualifying time to set off from the second row.
But he has a Herculean task if he is to retain his crown, not only needing to win but also requiring Bagnaia to struggle.
"I am quite happy with my position," said Quartararo who is not concerning himself with Bagnaia's performance.
"I'm not thinking about that, I am thinking about winning," he said.
"If I win the race, maybe something will happen but my main objective for tomorrow will be to fight for victory. It's the only thing I can control."
For Martin, this was a third successive pole after Thailand and his track record-breaking exploit in Australia last time out.
Alongside him on the front row will be Marc Marquez, the six-time MotoGP champion who has endured a tough injury-beset season but was ecstatic at his qualifying performance.
"The target was the second or third row so the team did a good job," said the Spaniard.
"I like this circuit, tomorrow I want to win, but will have to fight as I'm not the fastest guy out there."
As far as Ducati are concerned they would quite happily for once accept a win from the Honda man or anyone else other than Quartararo given it would seal Bagnaia's crown.
Bagnaia's teammate Jack Miller completed the front row line-up on his last ride for the Ducati team after five seasons.
"To be on the front row is hopefully setting up a perfect way to finish my time with Ducati," said the Australian.
Then came Quartararo, Alex Rins and Maverick Vinales on the second row with Brad Binder, Bagnaia and Johan Zarco behind.
As for pole-sitter Martin, he commented: "I'm really happy after my third in a row, but the important thing is the race - Vamos (let's go)!"