Shao Jiayi had a late penalty saved as China drew 0-0 with Australia despite a furious second-half onslaught in the crunch FIFA World Cup™ qualifier.

Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer dived low and to his left in the 87th minute to block Shao's shot as Australia escaped with a point to remain top of Group 1.

The distraught Shao, 27, even offered to take the blame if China fail to reach the fourth and final qualifying round as one of the top two teams.

"I feel I must apologise to the team and the fans for that penalty shot," Shao said. "Because of me we did not win the game, we should have won the game but we didn't because I missed the penalty kick. I really feel bad about this."

He added: "If China does not qualify in the end then it is my fault."

China's under-fire coach Vladimir Petrovic refused to criticise Shao for the miss, but said his team would now practise their spot-kicks harder.

"I'm very satisfied with how well we played and how hard we fought, we played with a lot of confidence but unfortunately we were not so lucky to win," said the Serb.

The tie had loomed as a difficult one for the visitors due to China's decision to play at 1,900 metres (6,233 feet) and in the mid-afternoon heat.

Australia were also missing key personnel Tim Cahill, Josh Kennedy, Mile Sterjovski, Scott McDonald and Brett Emerton, who were sidelined through injury.

Given these difficulties, Australia coach Pim Verbeek was happy with the result, which maintained his unbeaten record and kept the Socceroos on course for South Africa 2010.

"We knew that this would be a difficult game, but our boys were well prepared," said the Dutchman.

"The boys played very hard to get this result, of course we came here to win because everyone likes to win games. But I have to admit, I can live with this result."

After a quiet opening period, China came out firing for the second half and tested Schwarzer with striker Zhu Ting's header. Shandong Luneng Han Peng missed a clear scoring chance soon after, disappointing 32,500 fans at Tuodong Stadium.

In the dying minutes, Schwarzer brought down Qu Bo in the box as his heroics appeared to have come to nought. But Energie Cottbus midfielder Shao, under intense pressure to earn China's first win, shot tamely.

Australia's best chance had been a Mark Bresciano volley which was saved at full stretch by China's Zong Lei in the first half. Zhu could have had two in the opening 45 but missed his first effort and saw his second smothered by the busy Schwarzer.

Australia stay top of Group 1 after beating Qatar 3-0 in their opening match, while China earn their first point following a draw with Iraq. Qatar and Iraq play later.