Carlos Sainz sent Italy into raptures by taking pole position for the Italian Grand Prix in a hotly contested qualifying session.
He was scarcely more than 0.01s faster than Max Verstappen with Charles Leclerc set to line up third, only 0.05s away from pole.
More importantly, Sainz and Leclerc will maintain their positions on the grid after concerns of a potential penalty when officials took notice of the pair early in the session.
The field headed out on hard compound tyres, as mandated this weekend when Qualifying 1 began.
Alex Albon set the initial pace, though only because Verstappen had his first lap deleted for track limits at the second Lesmo.
The Dutchman returned to the pits for another set of tyres before heading back out, logging the fastest time of the session with a 1:21.573s.
With five minutes remaining, Oscar Piastri sat in the bottom five, as did Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, the latter having bounced through the gravel at Variante Ascari.
Piastri extricated himself with a 1:22.235s to climb to 11th with just over two minutes remaining.
He banked that time as a host of cars exited the pits ahead of their final push laps.
The two Red Bull drivers were not among them, confident with Verstappen fastest and Perez third.
As the chequered flag waved, Albon returned to second fastest, bumping Charles Leclerc to third, while Yuki Tsunoda slotted in fourth.
Liam Lawson progressed with the 12th best time, while missing out were Zhou Guanyu, Gasly, Ocon, Kevin Magnussen, and Lance Stroll.
It was a disastrous result for Alpine, the pair having been last one track – Ocon with damage after his off earlier in the session.
Ferrari had Leclerc third fastest and Carlos Sainz seventh, though they caught the eye of officials who noted them for failing to follow the race director's instructions when it came to maximum lap time.
It's a point that would be investigated post-session.
All but the two Mercedes returned to the circuit as Qualifying 2 commenced, this time on medium rubber.
Verstappen was the first car on track, going fastest from Perez who was within reach of a slipstream from his team-mate.
Albon was next best, the trio all dropping back a place when Sainz went fastest with a 1:20.991s – 0.044s more rapid than Verstappen.
Running out of sequence with the bulk of the field, Russell slotted in sixth quickest, while Hamilton was only 12th after his lap.
The circuit fell silent after the pair returned to the pits, Albon breaking that with three minutes remaining.
A traffic jam soon formed at pit exit as everyone looked to leave with a gap to the car ahead.
Williams had sent its cars out ahead of the melee, Sargeant looking to pick up a slipstream from Albon.
The Brit went fourth best as he flashed across the line as the flag fell, with Russell rising to fifth, which became sixth as Hamilton completed his lap.
Leclerc bumped Sainz from the top of the timesheets, only for Verstappen to go 0.04s faster – the top three split by 0.054s.
Eliminated were the Scuderia AlphaTauri pairing of Yuki Tsunoda and Lawson, along with Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, and Sargeant.
Lando Norris progressed for McLaren, though only just, his best only 0.06s faster than Tsunoda had managed.
Qualifying 3 began with the two Red Bulls again first out on track, this time on soft tyres, Verstappen again ahead of Perez.
Verstappen managed a 1:20.631s, his lap somewhat compromised after he dropped a wheel into the gravel at the Variante Roggia.
Ferrari pounced, Sainz moving onto provisional pole with Leclerc slotting in second, the pair split by 0.032s and a tenth clear of Verstappen in third.
Albon sat fifth after his first lap with Perez sixth ahead of the two McLarens, Norris the first of those.
Alonso, who was only 10th after his first lap in Qualifying 3, was first out for his second effort.
Leclerc was next in line, the Monegasque attacking the track to go fastest of anyone through the opening third of the lap.
He carried that pace through the middle of the lap, sitting just under a tenth quicker than anyone else to that measure.
It climaxed with provisional pole, though didn't last as Verstappen went faster by 0.05s.
However, the Dutchman was demoted to second as Sainz completed his lap, a 1:20.294s to take top spot by 0.013s.
Fourth best was Russell, then Perez, Albon, Piastri, Hamilton, Norris, and Alonso.
The session ended with more good news for Ferrari too, with confirmation from officials that there would be no further action regarding their Qualifying 1 maximum lap concerns.
As a result, Sainz was effectively confirmed on pole position, his first of the season.