Gagne, from Montreal, cleanly made his last dive in the preliminaries and advanced to the men's three-metre final at the Pan American Games.
Gagne was in 10th place heading into the sixth and final round and executed a strong twisting dive averaging 8.0's from the judges. He moved to up to eighth and along with François Imbeau-Dulac of St-Lazare, Que., second in the prelims, advanced to Saturday's final with 362.80 points. The top-12 advanced. There were 20 entries.
"I knew the situation going into my last dive," said Gagne, who is from Montreal. "But my twister is a dive I'm confident with. The energy from the crowd before and after that dive was incredible. I didn't do well on my first two dives but they never stopped encouraging me."
Imbeau-Dulac received a long ovation for his forward two and half somersaults with three twists, one of the toughest dives in the books to finish with 406.95 points.
"It's the first time in a year that I've executed that dive," he said. "I'm very pleased but I know I can do it even better in the final. I was aiming for consistency and the crowd was great but made it stressful as well. I was happy with how I managed that."
Rommel Pacheco of Mexico dominated the event with 466.35.
On women's 10-metre tower prelims, two-time Olympian Roseline Filion of Laval, Que., topped the field with 353.80 points. Paola Espinosa of Mexico was second at 347.25 and Samantha Bromberg of the U.S. third at 326.35. Meaghan Benfeito of Montreal was fourth at 315.10 and is also headed to the final.
"For me my main objective was to get accustomed to my settings," said Filion. "I was satisfied with my diving but I know I can do them all better. I'll be much more aggressive in the final."
Also Friday, Tory Nyhaug of New Westminster, B.C., had the best time in the men's BMX time-trial super-final, finishing in 36.113 seconds. James Brown of Airdrie, Alta., was sixth in 37.411.
Venezuela's Mariana Pajon Londono had the best time in the women's BMX time-trial super-final. Canadians Amelia Walsh and Daina Tuchscherer did not qualify for the super-final.
Earlier, Brayden Schnur, from nearby Pickering, Ont., beat Venezuela's Luis Martinez 6-3, 6-4, in the first round of the men's tennis tournament.