Gymnast Beth Tweddle produced one of the best routines of her life to top qualifying for the Olympic uneven bars final inside the North Greenwich Arena.
The 27-year-old scored a mammoth 16.133 in her last Games for Great Britain.
"It is the best feeling in the world," said Tweddle, a world champion three times but yet to win an Olympic medal.
Rebecca Tunney, the youngest Briton at the Olympics at 15, won a place in Thursday's all-around final as GB qualified fifth for the team final.
Tunney scored 56.391 from the four pieces of apparatus - bars, beam, floor and vault - and team-mate Hannah Whelan (55.699) will join her in the 24-woman competition for all-around gold. The pair qualified in 13th and 15th respectively.
Russia's Victoria Komova led all-around qualification, scoring 60.632 ahead of American Aly Raisman's 60.391.
But no nation could match the ability across the board of the United States team, driven on in particular by a series of near-faultless vault performances.
The US scored 181.863 to top team qualifying ahead of Russia (180.429), China (176.637) and Romania (176.264). Great Britain scored 170.656 for fifth, with Japan, Italy and Canada also making the final.
"We knew [the American team] were a step above us and we have no chance of catching them unless they have about 10 falls," said Tweddle.
"We have worked with them every day in training and they have been hitting their routines every day, with probably only one mistake in the whole week, so we knew they were going to go out there and do that."
Tweddle, who earlier performed her floor routine to a special arrangement of Live And Let Die, admitted she was speechless at the reception her remarkably complex - and beautifully executed - bars performance received.
"The last few weeks have been really hard because the pressure has been on," she told BBC Sport.
"You want to go into it thinking that there's no pressure on you but I would have walked out here disappointed if I had not gone clean.
"I am just pleased to be here. Twelve weeks ago I didn't think I would be walking into this arena [because of injury worries] so it's just the icing on the cake to reach the final."
He Kexin of China - the 2008 Olympic champion on bars - was her nearest challenger in qualifying, scoring 15.966. Tweddle narrowly missed out on a place in the floor final, finishing ninth in qualifying.
The Liverpool gymnast came close to an Olympic medal four years ago, finishing fourth in the uneven bars, but gold at the Games remains the one item missing from her distinguished gymnastics collection in more than a decade's international competition.
Elsewhere, Jordyn Wieber - the 2011 all-around world champion - will not compete for Olympic all-around gold after failing to qualify for the final.
Wieber, 17 earlier this month, posted the day's fourth-best overall score but still came up short of US team-mates Raisman and Gabby Douglas. As only two gymnasts per nation can qualify for each final, Wieber was left out of the final and was in tears as her session ended.
Raisman and Douglas are now expected to battle Russian duo Komova and Aliya Mustafina for the 2012 all-around title.