Felipe Massa secured Ferrari's third Monaco pole position in 20 years as he beat team-mate Kimi Raikkonen to the coveted grid slot.
Although many had predicted that McLaren would dominate today's qualifying session, it was Ferrari who proved to be the team to beat. Massa nipped in at the last possible moment with a 1:15.787 to take pole away from Raikkonen by 0.028s. Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton had to settle for third place, only 0.052s off the pace.
And with rain expected tomorrow the top three places on the grid could prove to be the podium result as well.
After a rainy start to the day and an officially wet morning practice, the track was cool and drying with sunshine about to break out. The ambient was only 19C and the track at 21C when the session got under way on a track that had a lot of the rubber put down on Thursday washed off.
Heikki Kovalainen had gone fastest in morning practice and then touched the barrier, so he was keen to get out on track and learn as much as possible about the changed conditions. Likewise David Coulthard had suffered an oil pressure problem in his Red Bull and needed track time.
With cars putting in two, three and sometimes four laps, the provisional fastest time yoyo'd between Coulthard, Sebastian Vettel and Heikki Kovalainen. Then Kimi Raikkonen came out early and put in multiple laps to get an idea of what was going on.
Kovalainen reduced P1 to 1:16.806 before Felipe Massa joined in and lowered it to 1:16.60. Kovalainen snatched it back with a 1:16.315 while Nico Rosberg's first lap out of the pits was an incredible 1:16.116.
A long way further back Nelson Piquet was doing his Renault chances no favours by going straight on at St. Devote.
Kimi Raikkonen claimed P1 on his third lap on hard tyres with a 1:15.717, which Lewis Hamilton nicked inside with a 1:15.582.
In the last three minutes the bottom half of the grid was 11.Barrichello, 12.Heidfeld, 13.Button, 14.Vettel, 15.Trulli, 16.Sutil, 17.Nakajima, 18.Piquet, 19.Bourdais, 20. Fisichella.
Usually the tail-enders have the circuit to themselves, but in Monaco even drivers who were safely through to Q2 wanted to try things out. Kovalainen came back out on track to take P1 with a 1:15.295, while in the dying moments Felipe Massa reduced it to a remarkable 1:15.190 - the writing was on the wall.
Nakajima jumped up to 14th place, Coulthard cemented his position in the top ten with 8th, Button moved forward to 10th, but Nelson Piquet could only manage 16th place. Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais improved his time, but not by enough.
The major casualty was Nelson Piquet who failed to make Q2 for the second race in succession.
Fernando Alonso came out on track first and set the benchmark time of 1:16.511, Kimi Raikkonen was again out early and took P1 off him with a 1:15.404 while Felipe Massa showed that he was consistently quick from session to session with a 1:15.110.
While the Ferraris had hit form, the McLarens were struggling to match their pace - Lewis Hamilton's first lap was a 1:14.420 for P3, he went round again for another quick lap on the softer tyre and managed a 1:15.374 to get inside Raikkonen's time for P2, but not by much. Then Nico Rosberg set the Williams mechanics hearts thumping with a rapid 1:15.287 for P2
Going into the last three minutes, the men who would definitely have to go again were: 7.Webber, 8.Coulthard, 9.Glock, 10.Trulli, 11.Barrichello, 12.Heidfeld, 13.Alonso, 14.Barrichello, 15.Nakajima.
Trulli, who'd been surprisingly behind his rookie team-mate's pace, suddenly made the major leap forward to take P7, Alonso - who had sounded thoroughly dejected on his team radio - grabbed P9. Then the cameras focused on a solitary wheel rolling along the tarmac by the harbour front with no sign of an accompanying car.
Replays eventually showed that David Coulthard had lost control of his Red Bull in the braking zone for the tunnel hairpin, slewed violently sideways into the barrier and headed straight down the escape road out of sight of any camera. Minus a wheel. The Scot was uninjured but even though he had managed to claim 10th place, had no car to compete in Q3.
The major casualty of the session was BMW's Nick Heidfled - Robert Kubica had got his car up to P5 and Heidfeld was seven places back. Timo Glock, having performed well in Q1 and the first half of Q2 lost out at the last minute.
So far Felipe Massa had been fastest in every session, but with Ferrari only scoring two Monaco poles in the last 20 years and McLaren having dominated on Friday it was expected that Lewis Hamilton or maybe Kovalainen might pull something special in the last session.
Kovalainen duly registered provisional P1 with a 1:16.621 and Hamilton took it off him with a 1:16.313. Both these times were rendered inadequate by Kimi Raikkonen's 1:16.112. Team-mate Felipe Massa could only manage P3 while Robert Kubica then put in a storming lap to grab P2 with a 1:16.233.
Going into the final laps the order was: 1.Raikkonen 2.Kubica 3.Hamilton 4.Massa 5.Kovalainen 6.Alonso 7.Webber 8.Rosberg 9.Trulli 10.Coulthard (not running).
Raikkonen lowered the pole time to a 1:15.815 and Lewis Hamilton set about beating it. Crossing the line the McLaren driver was agonisingly short with a 1:15.839. Seconds later, the self-confessed Monaco hater Felipe Massa crossed the line with a truly amazing 1:15.787.
Massa and Raikkonen had delivered a Monaco shock, (in the FIA press conference he was still struggling to believe it) but one that had been signalled by some very quick laps in Q1 and Q2, vouching that this wasn't a front row bought by low fuel in the car.
Hikkei Kovalainen will line up with his team-mate in P4, while Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso will share the third row.
With rain predicted for the race tomorrow and no traction control to help the drivers out, Massa will have the best view on the circuit - whether his newly found love affair with the Monaco GP continues remains to be seen, but he couldn't have given himself a better opportunity.
01 F. Massa Ferrari 1:15.787
02 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:15.815
03 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:15.839
04 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:16.165
05 R. Kubica BMW 1:16.171
06 N. Rosberg Williams 1:16.548
07 F. Alonso Renault 1:16.852
08 J. Trulli Toyota 1:17.203
09 M. Webber Red Bull 1:17.343
10 D. Coulthard Red Bull no time
11 T. Glock Toyota 1:15.907
12 J. Button Honda 1:16.101
13 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:16.455
14 K. Nakajima Williams 1:16.479
15 R. Barrichello Honda 1:16.537
16 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:16.806
17 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:16.933
18 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:16.955
19 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:17.225
20 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:17.823