Lewis Hamilton took pole position in his final race for McLaren as he took top spot for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton beat teammate Jenson Button by just 0.05 seconds as McLaren locked out the front row for the fourth time this season.
And it was advantage Sebastian Vettel in the race for the title as the Red Bull driver qualified fourth, one place behind teammate Mark Webber.
Vettel’s main rival Fernando Alonso could only manage the eighth fastest time, although he will start seventh after Pastor Maldonado was given a ten-place penalty for missing the weighbridge at the end of qualifying.
With Vettel needing a top four finish to secure his third straight championship he is in the box seat ahead of the race, with Alonso needing to finish in the top three to have a chance of winning the title.
However, with rain forecast for the race, grid positions could mean precious little when the Grand Prix gets underway.
And changeable weather could spell good news for Alonso, who appears to have set his Ferrari up more for the wet conditions than the McLarens and Red Bulls.
Felipe Massa outqualified his Ferrari teammate for the second race in succession, and will be joined on the third row by Nico Hulkenberg, who is driving his final race for Force India.
Alonso will start seventh, followed by Kimi Raikkonen, while Nico Rosberg and Paul di Resta round out the top ten.
Qualifying began on a drying track after rain hit the Interlagos circuit half an hour before the session, with most of the teams choosing to send their cars out on long runs to take advantage of the improving conditions.
While most of the frontrunners made it through the session without incident, Romain Grosjean became the main casualty to fall at the first hurdle after suffering a collision with Pedro de la Rosa in the final corner which forced him to pit for a new front wing with just two minutes remaining in Q1.
Both drivers were fortunate to escape what could have been a horrific accident, although the stewards decided to take no action over the incident.
With the track having dried out ahead of the second session it was normal service resumed for the teams, with Red Bull and McLaren fighting it out at the front.
But there was almost a surprise in Q2, as both Ferraris, their cars clearly setup for the anticipated rain during the race, were nearly eliminated, with Alonso and Felipe Massa finishing the session ninth and tenth.
After Vettel topped the second part of qualifying, the stage looked set for a great battle between the Red Bulls and the McLarens for pole, but in the end Hamilton and Button found a little extra when it mattered and topped the grid.
With rain forecast for the race, the stage is set for a thrilling climax to a magnificent title battle as Vettel and Alonso both seek to create history and become the youngest triple world champion of all time.
1) Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
2) Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
3) Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
4) Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
5) Felipe Massa Ferrari
6) Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
7) Fernando Alonso Ferrari
8) Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
9) Nico Rosberg Mercedes
10) Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes
11) Bruno Senna Williams-Renault
12) Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari
13) Michael Schumacher Mercedes
14) Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
15) Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari
16) Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
17) Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari
18) Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
19) Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault
20) Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
21) Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth
22) Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth
23) Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth
24) Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth