The 17-year-old took seven points off her highest ever score to qualify for the final where she extended her tally to 338.20 to finish fourth, an agonising two points shy of bronze.
After a seventh and fifth at the Beijing and Dubai World Series legs respectively, fourth in Edinburgh represents marked improvement for Starling plus the top finish for a Brit in the discipline at such an event.
He Zi took gold with 375.90 with Chinese teammate Shi Tingmao second and Olena Fedorova third just ahead of Starling, who is now determined to reach this summer's World Championships in Barcelona.
"I am so happy, I can't quite express how much," said Starling, who reached the semi-finals of the 3m springboard at the London 2012 Olympics last summer and made her world debut in Shanghai in 2011.
"I just went out to enjoy it, I had my teammates cheering me on in the audience, it's really nice having the crowd and everyone cheer me on.
"To come here and get a massive personal best has given me more confidence for the rest of the season. This season I would love to get on the World Championship team for Barcelona.
"If I make it there, I'm just going to go and enjoy it. When I go out to enjoy my competitions, I seem to get on alright."
Meanwhile Chris Mears, who won 3m synchro bronze with Nick Robinson-Baker on day one in Edinburgh, finished sixth in the final of the men's 3m springboard event.
The 20-year old recorded a World Series personal best 435.85 to qualify for the final before dropping two dives in the medal showdown to score 396.65.
Illya Kvasha took victory with 516.45 ahead of He Chong of China and Patrick Hausding of Germany and Mears didn't know whether to be happy or sad with his individual outing.
"I have got mixed feelings right now," said Mears. "I made it quite tough for myself because my first dive, which is usually a banker for me, got five's because I dropped it over.
"After that I managed to get back up there score some eight's and eight-point-five's and had a nightmare on the last dive I guess it wasn't my day, simple as that.
"Obviously I got a medal on the first day and I was really pleased with my prelim. I wanted to improve again in the final and it didn't happen and that's something I can go back and work on."