The 24 year-old is in the box seat to re-visit the effort that claimed her the crown of world champion at Paris 2003.
Tonight she won in 53.57, her second best time of the year - trailing only her run of 53.46 in Monaco in late July. That meet was her last in the lead-up to Osaka 2007.
Rawlinson started very well and never looked back, though held second for some time with American Sheena Johnson surging aggressively.
Her run was as good as flawless, hitting the lead at the halfway point and maintaining control - approaching each hurdle with ease.
She negotiated the last one successfully to cruise over the line with no peer.
Rawlinson said after the race that “once you’ve had a baby, you can do anything.“
Returning to competition in late May after giving birth to son Cornelis in December, the Commonwealth Games champion has enjoyed a remarkable few months.
But this effort was her most convincing.
“(I) got exactly what Chris asked for tonight,“ she noted, referring to her husband and coach Chris Rawlinson.
“I ran my own race. I was aware I had Sheena in the race and she went out hard. I’m really happy with it - it’s a good start. The track is running quick.
”I’m feeling very strong, I’ve never felt this strong before. I’m in control of my mind, which is one of the first times I’ve been like that in a long time.
“I made a few conscious decisions during the race. I haven’t had that all season. “
Great Britain’s Tasha Danvers-Smith finished second in 54.08 with Yevgeniya Isakova (RUS) third in 54.11 - both season’s bests.
In the other two races, Russia’s Yuliya Pechenkina - the 2005 world champion - won in 53.82 from China’s Xiaoxiao Huang (54.00) while Poland’s Ana Jesien set a new national record with 53.86. Jamaican Nickiesha Wilson ran a PB of 53.97.
The remaining spots went to world-leading American Tiffany Ross-Williams (54.15) and Isakova, who had the next two fastest times. Olympic champion Fani Halkia was seventh in 56.58.
The women’s 400m hurdles final will be run at 9:25pm AEST on Thursday.
Kym Howe finished 11th in the women’s pole vault final, missing three attempts at 4.60m.
With coach Alex Parnov and his daughter Vicky watching in the stands, it also took the 27 year-old three attempts at 4.50m after a comfortable 4.35m.
She waved to the crowd and headed for Parnov once her night was over.
“I’m disappointed, but I fought as hard as I could so I can’t be too upset with myself,” she said.
“It’s a good stepping stone towards Beijing and obviously I learnt a few things out there tonight.“
The event was won by world record holder and reigning world champion Yelena Isinbaeva (RUS) in 4.80m.
Sally McLellan finished fifth in her 100m hurdles semi-final, though executing another impressive time of 12.82 (-0.1).
Bettering that set in yesterday's heat, it is her second best run ever after posting 12.71 (0.0) in Osaka in May.
The 20 year-old was the quickest out of the blocks and beat defending champion Michelle Perry over the first hurdle, but the power and fluency of Perry, Canada's Perdita Felicien, Jamaica's Vonette Dixon and American Virgina Powell was too strong.
That was the order they crossed the line in; Perry in 12.55. Felicien's 12.61 was a season’s best while Dixon's 12.65 was a PB.
McLellan, who will now focus on the 4 x 100m relay, was measured though clearly disappointed after the race.
"I thought it was going to be fast, I knew that," she said. “That’s what happens when you do two events at this level. I’m learning now.
"I wanted to do it and now I know what the feeling is like to run at the World Championships in the 100m and the hurdles. I know what the competition is like so, next year at the Olympics, I’ll choose one event.
"I’ve got 10 more years left in the sport and I have 10 more years left to learn.
"In the moment (now) I am quite disappointed, but when I sit down and think about it - I’ll be happy again, “ she added. "I guess coming fifth in the semi-finals isn’t too bad."
Tomorrow morning Australian record holder Sarah Jamieson and national champion Lisa Corrigan will contest the first round of the women’s 1500m (11:00am AEST).
photos Janos Schmidt