A Mark Bresciano goal in the dying seconds gave the Socceroos a remarkable 1-0 win despite being completely outplayed by Bahrain in Wednesday night’s World Cup qualifier at the Bahrain National Stadium.
Australia had barely threatened to score all match in a disjointed performance that looked to reflect the shortest of preparations for the match.
But Bresciano broke the defence in the third minute of injury time and fired home from close range to complete an amazing escape and maintain Australia’s perfect start to the final stage of qualification.
The Socceroos now have nine points from three matches and are in a commanding position to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The loss was a cruel one for Bahrain, who would have felt they deserved the three points after dominating in attack and enjoying a large majority of the chances.
Their qualification campaign is effectively over, with just one point from three matches.
Needing a win to climb out of fifth position in the six-team group, Bahrain came out firing and were denied taking the lead in the first half by two fine saves from Mark Schwarzer.
Schwarzer blocked shots from Abdulla Fatadi and impressive Nigerian-born striker Jaycee John while midfielder Mahmood Abdulrahman also went close.
Harry Kewell, one of several players who had an off night, had Australia’s first genuine chance shortly before halftime but misguided his header from a David Carney cross.
The Bahrainis continued to press through some shaky Australian defence Salman Isa blasting a shot just wide and John going close with a headed attempt.
A good chance fell to Carney in the 59th minute, but he blasted in the side netting after collecting a layoff from striker Josh Kennedy.
The Socceroos actual first shot on target came when Tim Cahill hit a long-range effort minutes later.
The Everton midfielder had little impact on the match and looked to be hampered by his foot problem before he was substituted for Mile Sterjovski with five minutes to go.
Bahrain, buoyed by a reasonably small but extremely vocal crowd, threw everything at Australia in the closing stages and could have scored on several occasions.
But a misguided Bahraini header allowed Bresciano to break into space and inflict the cruellest of defeats with just seconds remaining.
Japan and Qatar were playing in Wednesday’s other group A match in Doha, which started at 0330 AEDT Thursday.