We report a new development of orthogonal scanning automated microscopy (OSAM) incorporating time-gated detection to locate rare-event organisms regardless of autofluorescent background. The necessity of using long-lifetime (hundreds of microseconds) luminescent biolabels for time-gated detection implies long integration (dwell) time, resulting in slow scan speed. However, here we achieve high scan speed using a new 2-step orthogonal scanning strategy to realise on-the-fly time-gated detection and precise location of 1-μm lanthanide-doped microspheres with signal-to-background ratio of 8.9. This enables analysis of a 15...mm × 15...mm slide area in only 3.3 minutes. We demonstrate that detection of only a few hundred photoelectrons within 100 μs is sufficient to distinguish a target event in a prototype system using ultraviolet LED excitation. Cytometric analysis of lanthanide labelled Giardia cysts achieved a signal-to-background ratio of two orders of magnitude. Results suggest that time-gated OSAM represents a new opportunity for high-throughput background-free biosensing applications.