Cooler conditions on Saturday morning meant lap time gains on the combined overall standings were few and far between in the first half of the session.
Espargaro will be the first big improvement in the combined standings as the session draws to a close and will remain the fastest ever to qualify with 1m58.254s.
Only Tech 3 KTM rookie Raul Fernandez after 15 minutes of running found the time at his best on Friday, despite staying 23rd as Johann Zarco led on the Pramac Ducati singles schedule by scoring 1m59.476s.
It wouldn’t be until the last 16 minutes of the session when some serious attacks on Fabio Quartararo’s best efforts were launched on Friday.
Espargaro of Aprilia knocked out a Quartararo of 1 m 58.946 s in a 1 m 58.695 s in his first attack on soft, fresh Michelin rubber.
He was immediately overtaken by teammate Maverick Vinales, who shot in 1m58.599s, before Espargaro came on his second attempt close to Silverstone’s all-time lap record with 1m58.254s to return to the top of the standings.
Ducati’s Jack Miller split Aprilia’s pair as she entered the session in the final 11 minutes with 1m58.332s, with Quartararo – who went on to practice the long penalty loop in FP3 – finishing fourth.
With only 10 minutes left, everyone inside the top 10 except for ninth-placed Alex Rains found time on Friday’s best laps as they bid to go straight to the qualifying shootout session later in the afternoon.
Espargaro failed to make any further gains in the 1m58.254-second lap as the clock counted down, although Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia was furious at the Village corner in the closing stages after the latter felt annoyed in his lap.
But on the cool-down cycle after the checkered flag, the pair hugged and stopped the matter.
Pramac’s Martin threatened Espargaro’s time on his last flying lap towards the end of the session, but clocked 1 minute 58.282 seconds to see himself safely in the second quarter later this afternoon.
Martin was forced to park his way back to the parking lane after the square flag while Ducati cut off his car. It is not yet clear if this is a mechanical problem or if he simply ran out of fuel.
Miller completed the top three on his factory Ducati team ahead of Zarco, who crashed late on a village corner when he lost the front end of his GP22 race under braking.
Vinales rounded out the top five in Aprilia, and championship leader Quartararo was sixth in the finish ahead of Suzuki’s Bagnaya and Juan Mir.
Luca Marini secured a straight spot in the second quarter on his VR46 Ducati in ninth ahead of Alex Rins’ second Suzuki, with Marco Pizzicchi slipping back into the first quarter after missing the cut by just 0.182sec.
He will be joined in Q1 in qualifying by Gresini’s Enea Bastianini, who only managed 12th at the end of FP3 ahead of Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli.
All four KTM riders will have to pass the first part of qualifying later today, along with all Honda riders, retired RNF duo Andrea Dovizioso and rookie Darren Bender.
Qualification for the 2022 British MotoGP Grand Prix will begin at 2:10pm local time.