The host nation’s quarter-final success sets up a potential revenge mission against defending champions Japan – who beat Australia in the final four years ago – in Newcastle on Tuesday evening.

Australia struggled early on against the unfancied Chinese, but made the crucial breakthrough early in the second half when New York Red Bulls star Cahill scored with a sensational right-footed bicycle kick from the corner of the six-yard box after 48 minutes.

And the former Millwall and Everton midfielder put the game beyond China’s reach after 65 minutes with a trademark thumping header from 10 yards to give him his third goal of the tournament. The strike took the Sydney-born 35-year-old’s total for Australia to a remarkable 39 goals in 80 international appearances.

The Aussies had reached the knock-out stages after finishing second in their group – winning 4-1 against Kuwait and 4-0 against Oman before a narrow 1-0 defeat to South Korea when both teams were already through.

Manager Ange Posecoglou’s Socceroos will now face either tournament favourites Japan or the United Arab Emirates, who meet in their quarter-final tie tomorrow.

Four-time champions Japan have knocked Australia out of the last two Asian Cups – beating the Socceroos on penalties in the quarter-finals of 2007, and then breaking Aussie hearts with a 1-0 extra-time victory in the final of 2011. Time to settle a few old scores….