Marc Marquez led his first session of the Argentina MotoGP weekend as he edged out Cal Crutchlow in Saturday morning practice at Termas de Rio Hondo.
Marquez’s late 1m38.602s for Honda was the first lap that beat Aleix Espargaro’s Friday benchmark on the Suzuki.
LCR Honda rider Cruthlow got within 0.056 seconds of Marquez, making it the second time in a week that he had run the champion close in the crucial practice session following a similar performance at Austin last weekend.
Espargaro was only fifth fastest this time but his Friday lap kept him third on the combined sheets and comfortably among those going straight into Q2.
The Ducatis of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso claimed third and fourth.
Yamaha men Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi looked at risk of having to go through Q1 for a spell, before pulling themselves up to sixth and seventh.
But their satellite counterparts Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith will both have to go into the first qualifying segment as they failed to crack the combined top 10 for Tech 3.
Espargaro only narrowly missed out, pipped by 0.014s by his 2013 Moto2 title rival Scott Redding as the Briton secured a second straight Q2 presence with Marc VDS.
Both Suzukis will be in the pole shootout again, with Maverick Vinales ninth fastest behind Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci.
Eugene Laverty put himself in line for a Q2 slot for a while, though the Aspar Honda rider eventually fell back to 12th between the Tech 3 pair.
While Marquez set the pace, his temporary factory Honda team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama continued to struggle on Dani Pedrosa’s usual bike. The stand-in rider was only 21st fastest.