A well-timed flying lap from Lance Stroll late in Q1 succeeded in putting a Williams into the second round of qualifying on Saturday.
It's the first time since Monza that Stroll has avoided elimination at the end of Q1, after disappointing outings for the team in Singapore and Sochi. The Canadian admitted that he hadn't been expecting to achieve that at Suzuka.
"I am still very happy and really satisfied to get through and into [Q2], as we didn't expect that today," he said.
After his first run Stroll had looked destined to finish the round in the bottom five, putting him in the drop zone. But he made the most of momentarily improving conditions to find the extra pace he needed to vault him to safety.
"The car felt like it was working beneath me and I knew it was going to be a big step from my first run to my second run," he said.
"I tidied up my mistakes from that first run in Q1, and then it was a combination of everything.
"I had a good engineer to set-up the car well, used every bit of the road, committed to every corner, the lap was pretty good, and the car felt alive beneath me. All those key points came together."
Even so, Stroll knew that there was no chance of making it through to the final pole shoot-out round.
"The rain came at the wrong moment in Q2," he admitted after finishing in 14th position. "We didn't expect to be able to compete with the other teams.
"I know we have got some quicker cars behind us," he said, pointing to the out-of-position Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo which will start from 15th place after a technical issue meant it failed to take part in Q2.
"Ricciardo is going to fly through the field, and I am not going to spend too much time trying to keep him behind!" said Stroll. "I am going to do my race and hopefully we can pick up some positions at the start and go from there."
Stroll's team mate Sergey Sirotkin will be starting a couple of rows further back from 17th after missing out on Q2.
"I think it was a good session," he said. "We weren’t the luckiest with the traffic we had on our out-lap, so when I started my lap, the tyres weren’t the best prepared.
"But apart from that I think I should be very happy with the lap I did. It was 100 percent from my side and the same for how we optimised the car and how we put everything together operationally.
"We got the car at its best for the last run, so I’m not too happy with the fact that we’re not through but I am happy with how it felt and the job that we did."