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Dovizioso on Japan pole as Marquez match point looms

Motegi, Japan: Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso kept his fading MotoGP title hopes alive Saturday by snatching pole for the Japanese Grand Prix in a frantic late dash.

The Italian, who realistically needs to emulate his 2017 victory in Japan to delay Marc Marquez's coronation, clocked a fastest lap of one minute, 44.590 seconds, with his Spanish rival sixth quickest.

Marquez, Dovizioso or Jorge Lorenzo have topped qualifying at the last nine races.

That streak was almost brought to a halt as Jack Miller roared to the top of the timesheets late on, but after the Australian subsequently skidded off, Dovizioso and Yamaha's Johann Zarco produced some sudden-death fireworks to demote him to third.

Cal Crutchlow (Honda), Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) and Marquez (Honda) will start Sunday's race from the second row of the grid, with Maverick Vinales (Yamaha), Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) behind them.

Marquez, who leads Dovizioso by 77 points with a maximum 100 points available from the final four races this season, can capture his third straight world crown if he finishes ahead of the Italian.

The runaway championship leader limbered up for qualifying with a quickest lap in the final free practice, despite a late spill.

But although he will start from sixth, Marquez will fancy his chances of wrapping up a third-straight title — his fifth overall — in motorcycling's premier class, which would equal Australian legend Mick Doohan.

The 25-year-old would trail only Italians Rossi, who won the last of his seven championships in 2009, and Giacomo Agostini, whose record eighth came in 1975.

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