Aprilia's Eugene Laverty put in a last, fast run of laps to haul himself on to the provisional front row for Sunday's Portimao World Superbike double-header but he was still four-tenths slower than pace-setter Marco Melandri on the works BMW.
The Italian was more than six-tenths ahead of second-placed man Tom Sykes until Laverty hopped from 13th place to second while another late lap, this time from Honda's Jonathan Rea to wrap up the front row, demoted Leon Haslam to the head of row two.
The gritty Derbyshire man is three-quarters of a second off the pace and playing down the discomfort he is in following his crash at the Nurburgring last time out. Leon Camier is in sixth place and just 0.028s behind his namesake.
Former champion and 2012 points table leader Max Biaggi, on the second works RSV4, is eight-tenths down in seventh place with Carlos Checa right behind him. Michel Fabrizio and Chaz Davies round out the top ten.