SA-born wing DTH van der Merwe scored two tries as Canada drew 28-28 with the USA in the first leg of their 2019 World Cup qualifier in Ontario.
The winner of the second leg in San Diego next week will join England, France, Argentina and Oceania 2 in Pool C.
The USA led 21-15 at half-time thanks to two tries from Nick Civetta and one from Mike Te’o, while Van der Merwe's brace kept the hosts in the game.
While Eagles hooker James Hilterbrand and No 8 Cam Dolan both received yellow cards in the second half, the USA still led 28-18 with less than half an hour remaining.
But Canada hit back with a 77th-minute try from Aaron Carpenter. Shane O’Leary kicked the conversion and then levelled the scores with a penalty.
However, the Canada flyhalf was then off-target with another penalty that would have secured victory.
Canada – Tries: DTH van der Merwe (2), Aaron Carpenter. Conversions: Shane O’Leary (2). Penalties: O’Leary (3).
USA – Tries: Nick Civetta (2), Mike Te’o (2). Conversions: AJ MacGinty (4).
Canada – 15 Ciaran Hearn, 14 Andrew Coe, 13 DTH van der Merwe (cc), 12 Connor Braid, 11 Taylor Paris, 10 Shane O’Leary, 9 Phil Mack, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Matt Heaton, 6 Admir Cejvanovic, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Brett Beukeboom (cc), 3 Jake Ilnicki, 2 Ray Barkwill, 1 Djustice Sears-Duru.
Subs: 16 Benoit Piffero, 17 Anthony Luca, 18 Matt Tierney, 19 Kyle Baillie, 20 Aaron Carpenter, 21 Gordon McRorie, 22 Nick Blevins, 23 Dan Moor.
USA – 15 Ben Cima, 14 Mike Te’o, 13 Bryce Campbell, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Matai Leuta, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Nate Augspurger, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 John Quill, 6 Todd Clever (c), 5 Nick Civetta, 4 Ben Landry, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 James Hilterbrand, 1 Tony Purpura.
Subs: 16 Peter Malcolm, 17 Ben Tarr, 18 Dino Waldren, 19 Matthew Jensen, 20 David Tameilau, 21 Andrew Durutalo, 22 Shaun Davies, 23 Will Magie.
Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images