Able to take part in Q2 following a monster highside which saw him crash at over 110mph during Silverstone MotoGP FP4, Espargaro wasted no time in heading out of pit lane with Francesco Bagnaia right behind him.
Now the favourite to claim pole, Fabio Quartararo also had company in the form of Marco Bezzecchi.
Jorge Martin was the first rider to throw down a hot pace after going within a tenth of Espargaro’s FP3 time, however, the Spaniard’s time was soon beaten by reigning world champion Quartararo.
Quartararo came across the line to set a time of 1:58.259s which was just 0.001s clear of Jack Miller.
Maverick Vinales also closed the gap to Quartararo by jumping ahead of Martin and onto the front row.
Slowly building up his pace, Espargaro was last of the 12 runners following the opening time attack run.
With a new lap record very likely to be set, what came next was truly amazing…
Espargaro went nearly three tenths faster than Quartararo to set the first-ever sub 1m 58s lap.
But as celebrations began in the Aprilia garage, Miller and Quartararo managed to relegate Espargaro down to third, before a new lap record was then set by Johann Zarco.
Half a tenth down after three sectors, Vinales narrowly missed out on a first pole for Aprilia as he went second fastest, leaving Zarco to take home the spoils.
Enea Bastianini and Marco Bezzecchi advance to Silverstone MotoGP Q2
As Q1 got underway, intense talks were continuing to be had inside the Aprilia garage as Espargaro was declared fit after suffering no fractures from his crash.
Espargaro was initially carted away on a stretcher before walking away from the medical centre under his own power.
On-track, Marco Bezzecchi led the way following the opening flurry of time attacks. Just ahead of Bezzecchi at the start of their second flying lap, Alex Marquez suffered a crash at turn eight, his first of the weekend.
A fan of Ducati’s new aero package, Enea Bastianini put his improved feeling with the Desmosedici GP-21 to good use by jumping to the top of the leaderboard with the only sub 1m 59s lap.
As Bastianini improved again on his final run, so did Brad Binder as the KTM rider joined him inside the top two.
However, Binder’s hopes of securing a better qualifying were dashed when Bezzecchi took second on his very last lap of the session.