Practice pacesetter Rea set the early pace in SP2 with a 1m40.023s, but the Kawasaki man was soon deposed by Melandri, who fired in a succession of fastest tours which culminated in a 1m39.729s.
Rea’s Kawasaki stablemate Tom Sykes had to come through SP1 for the first time this season, and used his extra 15 minutes of track knowledge to set the timing screens ablaze on his first qualifying tyre lap.
Sykes fired in a 1m39.558s to lay the gauntlet, though this was beaten by Rea by a tenth despite the Ulsterman suffering a moment on the front end of his ZX-10RR at Turn 8.
Rea ran wide at the first turn at the beginning of his final lap, forcing him to abort and leaving him powerless to halt the late surge from Melandri.
Melandri usurped Rea with a 1m39.376s on his first Q tyre lap, and the Italian dug deep on his final effort to go four tenths clear with a 1m39.012s to secure pole.
Rea held onto second despite only having one lap on the Q tyre, while a late lap of 1m39.530s from Milwaukee Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty put him onto the back of the front row in third.
Sykes heads row two on the sister KRT machine, missing third by 0.028s, while Barni Racing’s Xavi Fores and Yamaha’s Alex Lowes completed the top six.
Toprak Razgatlioglu put his customer Puccetti Kawasaki into seventh ahead of the second Aprilia of Lorenzo Savadori, while Chaz Davies was left in ninth after encountering a late technical issue with his Ducati.
Leon Camier was top Honda runner in qualifying in 10th, with SP1 graduate Michael van der Mark (Yamaha) and home hero Leandro Mercado (Orelac Kawasaki) filling up the top 12.
Althea BMW’s Loris Baz was just under a tenth outside of the SP2 progression places with a 1m40.352s, and will start from 13th ahead of Honda’s Jake Gagne and rookie Florian Marino, who is replacing the ousted PJ Jacobsen at Triple M Honda.
Marino’s fellow WSBK debutants Maximilian Scheib (MV Agusta) and Gabriele Ruiu (Pedercini Kawasaki) put their respective machinery 16th and 19th on the grid for their maiden races later today.