Mile Jedinak's penalty rescued Australia from a home World Cup qualifying defeat, salvaging a 1-1 draw against Japan and keeping the Socceroos on course for the Russia 2018.
Japan looked set for a smash-and-grab success after Genki Haraguchi's fifth-minute opener.
A first half played at a snail's pace gave way to a helter-skelter second, allowing the Socceroos back into the contest.
The Samurai Blue will rue their clumsy penalty that gifted Australia their equaliser, but will be thankful Ange Postecoglou's side didn't find a second.
The Socceroos were rampant in the final 20 minutes as they chased a winner, but their transformation from frog to prince came too late for a victory.
The draw isn't a stellar one for Australia's qualifying hopes -- they are likely to lose top place in the group as a result.
They remain a point ahead of arch-rivals Japan and still own their qualifying destiny with six matches left on the road to Russia.
The Socceroos started without confidence and soon fell behind.
Haraguchi made it three goals in as many matches when he converted a one-on-one chance.
Trent Sainsbury was the guilty party, attempting an audacious pass that Haraguchi intercepted and eventually finished.
Japan were frustrating Australia, and their fans among the 48,460 at Etihad Stadium out-sang locals as well.
Playing with a 4-4-2 system, including surprise selection Apostolos Giannou alongside Tomi Juric up front, the Socceroos couldn't cut through.
Australia subsisted on set pieces in a lacklustre first stanza. Matthew Spiranovic headed Aaron Mooy's cross over and Jedinak brought a save out of Shusaku Nishikawa from a direct free kick.
The break Australia desperately needed came on 51 minutes, when Juric was bundled over in the box by Japan's goalscorer.
Brad Smith's intelligent run and cross bore fruit, with captain Jedinak thundering the penalty home.
The Socceroos, reverted to their usual 4-3-3 formation, and were on top as Postecoglou gave substitutes Robbie Kruse and Tim Cahill half an hour to help find a winner.
While Spiranovic headed a late corner over, it was Japan which came closest to a second goal, Takuma Asano unlucky not to connect with Haraguchi's cross with Mat Ryan beaten.