On a tight and twisty Singapore circuit which was expected to hurt Mercedes, the world championship leader produced what Sky F1's Martin Brundle hailed as "the lap of the season" to beat Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel to pole.
Astonishingly, Hamilton's lap was four seconds faster than his best lap in qualifying at Singapore a year ago when he was just fifth quickest - although Pirelli's hypersoft tyres were not available 12 months ago.
But having won the Saturday battle, Hamilton knows he will need to produce more magic if he is to win Sunday's war of attrition in what is considered to be the toughest race on the calendar.
"It is the most challenging circuit for us in the year," said Hamilton. "It's Monaco on steroids really, being that it's a lot longer, a lot more corners."
Two weeks ago, Hamilton won the Italian GP from third on the grid after his fast start caught out Vettel and the Mercedes driver knows a quick get-away will be critical to his victory hopes on Sunday.
"It is very hard to overtake here," Hamilton told Sky F1. "I think it's the fourth-hardest. We truly believed we would be behind Red Bull and Ferrari but we pulled something out of the bag today."
Vettel's unhappiness was public and pronounced after qualifying but, mindful of Ferrari's race-pace in Friday's race simulations, the German is confident he can prevent Hamilton increasing his championship lead.
"It is very close," said Vettel. "Everyone has been up top at some point this weekend."
But Vettel had already made his displeasure at Ferrari's performance plain, telling Sky F1: "The gap is a surprise. But l don't think it reflects the true performance. For us, it wasn't as smooth as we wanted it to be.
"As l said, it wasn't ideal - you can figure out what l mean. We should have done better. We had the ingredients but we didn't put it together. Pole was definitely there to grasp."
Online Soccer 1Malaysia
malaysia Sport book