Casting aside several days of dramas - from a training crash to ongoing criticisms about the quality of the Games courses, Bright was on song straight away, laying down a 93-point run at her first attempt.
It was a solid marker for the 27-year-old who looked smooth and untroubled all the way through her run.
American Hannah Teter was second in her heat, scoring 92.
Bright appeared to get stuck in a transition during her second effort and failed to improve her score.
The decider may well be a showdown between Bright and Kelly Clark, the American 2002 Games champion looking imperious with her 95-point run in the first heat.
Clark continued her recent run of excellent form, which included a fourth consecutive X Games title in the `pipe.
Bright comes off the back of a seventh place in the slopestyle in Sochi, where she is also competing in the snowboard cross event.
Spain's Queralt Castellet also edged Bright overall with a 93.25 score in Clark's heat.
Six women go straight through to the final with another dozen snowboarders competing in a semi-final. Six of those riders then go through to make up a 12-woman final.
The news wasn't so good for Bright's Australian teammate Holly Crawford.
The three-Games veteran and 2011 world champion bombed out in both her runs, her Olympic campaign ending then and there.
Compatriot Hannah Trigger also failed to progress but Steph Magiros snuck into the last semi-final qualifying spot from her heat.