After 82 tense, goalless, nail-biting minutes super-sub Kennedy rose above the Iraqi defence and dispatched a deft dink from Mark Breciano into the bottom right corner.

A long 10 minutes later, Australians were making plans for their trips to Brazil next year.

Commentators and social networking sites were highly critical of Socceroos coach Holger Osiek’s controversial decision to take off experienced Tim Cahill and whippet striker Robbie Kruse, but the move paid dividends – Kennedy was one of the replacements and made the difference.

The youthful Iraqi side with an average age of about 21 was as spirited as it was frustrating, putting constant pressure on the so-called ‘Dad’s Army’ Socceroos and taking any opportunity to stay down and milk the clock.

Osiek’s men appeared to lose patience at times – they were clearly the stronger side but unable to break down their inexperienced opponents.

Going into the sheds at half-time, the Socceroos had dominated without finding the killer blow.

Iraq came out fighting in the second half, and looked dangerously sharp on their rare salvos forward.

But all the Aussies needed was one goal to put their advancement beyond doubt. And it came, eventually, through the classiest of means.

The minutes which followed would have relieved the Stadium Australia crowed of their fingernails and forced management to invest in new seats, so worn down will be their edges.

Mark Schwarzer was called into action late, but that’s when the talisman shines.

Now the next job begins.