Nico Rosberg claimed pole position for the British Grand Prix, with Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton down in sixth.
With rain coming and going throughout the qualifying hour, the first runs in Q3 were all affected to varying degrees by rain in the final sector, with Hamilton initially going fastest on slicks.
But conditions had dramatically improved by the final seconds of qualifying as drivers attempted their second runs and with Hamilton abandoning his lap after complaining that it was too slippery, he tumbled down the order late on as others improved.
Rosberg's pole lap was 1.6s faster than second-placed Sebastian Vettel, who had not set a time on his first run after abandoning his lap because of the rain.
Jenson Button was third fastest thanks to his late lap ahead of the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg, the German briefly taking top spot after being the first to improve on the second runs.
Kevin Magnussen, the last of the five drivers who did improve on their second runs, was fifth fastest ahead of Hamilton.
Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne had held positions third-to-seventh until moments before the end of the session thanks to their first run times, but plummeted as other drivers completed their final laps.
Romain Grosjean was the fastest of those to drop out in Q2, ending up 11th.
But the big surprise in the middle segment of qualifying, which started in intermediate conditions before everyone switched to slicks, was Marussia.
Having both escaped Q1 after good performances in mixed conditions, Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton produced the best qualifying performance for the team since it came into F1 in 2010, finishing 12th and 13th.
Esteban Gutierrez was 14th after losing his Sauber on the exit kerb at Brooklands corner and being spat onto the grass at the entry to Luffield and backing into the wall.
Behind him was Pastor Maldonado, who was forced to stop late in the session after suffering an engine problem.
Adrian Sutil was 16th fastest, making Q2 but being unable to participate as he had spun into the gravel.
Ferrari and Williams suffered Q1 disasters, with Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen all being knocked out.
Q1 had started in intermediate conditions, but all four were unable to put together good enough laps having switched to medium-compound Pirellis.
Bottas and Massa, who were among the latest drivers to take slick rubber, ended up 17th and 18th thanks to a combination of yellow flags and light rain returning late on.
Alonso was 19th after losing the rear on turn-in to Brooklands and having to take to the runoff area on what should have been his best lap.
Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was 20th, ahead only of the Caterhams of Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi.
Neither Caterham driver set a time on slicks, with Kobayashi suffering a car problem after a single lap on mediums and Ericsson suffering a couple of offs during the session.
The stewards will investigate an impeding incident involving Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez, which occurred during Q2, after the session..
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m35.766s
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m37.386s +1.620s
3. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.200s +2.434s
4. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m38.329s +2.563s
5. Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.417s +2.651s
6. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m39.232s +3.466s
7. Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m40.457s +4.691s
8. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m40.606s +4.840s
9. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1m40.707s +4.941s
10. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 1m40.855s +5.089s
Q2 cut-off time: 1m38.166s Gap **
11. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m38.496s +3.626s
12. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1m38.709s +3.839s
13. Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1m39.800s +4.930s
14. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m40.912s +6.042s
15. Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1m44.018s +9.148s
16. Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari no time
Q1 cut-off time: 1m45.086s Gap *
17. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1m45.318s +4.938s
18. Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m45.695s +5.315s
19. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m45.935s +5.555s
20. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m46.684s +6.304s
21. Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1m49.421s +9.041s
22. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1m49.625s +9.245s
107% time: 1m47.406s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2