Di Resta made what he believes was "a ballsy decision" to head out at the start of the final period of qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix on a set of intermediate tyres.
Di Resta had spotted umbrellas going up in the grandstands around the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, and countermanded the original decision of the Force India pitwall.
The other nine drivers had opted for slicks in a bid to hopefully get in a lap before the rain fell, but were quickly forced back into the pits to switch to intermediates.
That allowed Di Resta to post a time that kept him out in front until the dying stages when the rain stopped and a dry line appeared.
Di Resta was ultimately relegated to fifth by the close - still a career high - and will start behind polesitter Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes and team-mate Nico Rosberg, the duo sandwiching Red Bull pair Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
Asked whether he allowed himself a moment to believe he could be on pole, Di Resta replied: "A small glimpse based on the weather.
"When I came in it was still raining, but unfortunately the shower caught me in the last sector when I was on my lap.
"It then cleared. The intensity wasn't what we thought.
"It was still a ballsy decision and it was basically me who made it.
"The team said they wanted to go out on slicks like everybody else, but I said 'No, let's do something different. Look at the screens, people are putting umbrellas up'.
"We had the best conditions and ended up P5. If we went out at the end, there was no way we would have been there.
"So there's no regret about being where I am. P5 matches the best result we've had all year."
After failing to score a point in the last two races, Di Resta is now in with a shot of getting back into the top 10.
Conditions will be a determining factor, along with his car which is still trying to find its feet on the new range of Pirelli tyres.
"We've a strong car in sectors one and three, not so strong in sector two," assessed Di Resta.
"If it's dry then maybe we can glimpse points again, but where we've been recently we have to take it lap by lap and run it as best as we can.
"If we can get back on track and score points again then that will make me smile after the race."