The former champion was fourth fastest in the session, but will be promoted to the inside of row two when Lewis Hamilton is moved down the order.
Although he thinks a win is out of the question given Ferrari's dominant form, he hopes to fend off the McLarens, BMWs and Toyotas for third.
"The times were very tight today, in both Q1 and Q2, but I made it through to Q3 and was able to set a good time," said Alonso.
"The car has really improved and so for the first time this season we have the real chance to fight for the podium.
"The Ferraris are certainly a step ahead, but we will give our maximum to get a good result tomorrow."
Alonso's team-mate Nelson Piquet had been quickest in final practice, but was edged out of the Q3 qualifying spots in the final seconds of Q2.
"It's frustrating to miss out on Q3, but we didn't anticipate the behaviour of the soft tyres which turned out be slower than we thought," he said.
But the Brazilian rookie will start from ninth on the grid due to penalties for both McLaren drivers and is optimistic about his chances of improving in the race.
"At least we have the chance to adopt the ideal strategy for the race tomorrow and I hope we can benefit from that because it is particularly difficult to overtake here," Piquet said.
"The times were very close today, but the car behaved well and I think we can be on the pace in normal race conditions, and I will do my best to try and score my first points tomorrow."
Renault's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds felt both his drivers had done a fine job.
"Obviously we are thrilled with Fernando's second row starting position and I believe he has a real chance of fighting for the podium tomorrow," he said.
"And let's not forget Nelson's performance: he was just 0.05s away from making Q3.
"It's a great effort from him as well."