A method for rapidly transitioning from a lean combustion mode to a rich combustion mode, such as often required for the regeneration of aftertreatment devices, is provided by abrupt intake air reduction and a concurrent abrupt increase in fuel injection quantity with accompanying retardation of fuel injection timing. The abrupt increase in fuel quantity is to a maximum value sufficient to immediately provide a defined initial rich air/fuel ratio for a coexistent oxygen concentration in the cylinder. The fuel quantity is then proportionally reduced from the maximum value to a target fuel quantity to maintain a target air/fuel ratio during the transition. Simultaneously, injection timing is abruptly retarded to a value sufficient to avoid torque increase as a result of the increased injected fuel. The injection timing is subsequently proportionally advanced from the abruptly retarded timing value when the target fuel quantity and air/fuel ratio values are achieved.