His time of one minute and 47.10 seconds placed him third fastest, behind Australians Cameron McEvoy and Thomas Fraser-Holmes.
Scotland's Robbie Renwick stormed back in the final lap to finish second in his heat behind the impressive-looking McEvoy in a time of 1min 47.15secs, with James Guy of England also a qualifier.
Nick Grainger of England, Canada's Ryan Cochrane and Ieuan Lloyd of Wales all finished in joint-eighth place with the same time of 1:48.98 and faced a swim-off to determine who would go through to the evening final.
In the women's 50m freestyle heats, ahead of tonight's semi-finals, Francesca Halsall finished fastest with a Games record of 24.31, with fellow Englishwomen Amy Smith and Jess Lloyd also among the qualifiers.
Scotland will be represented by Sian Harkin while Hannah McCarthy will race for Wales.