Brett Holman helped Australia keep their FIFA World Cup™ qualifying hopes alive with a late long-range goal that ensured a 2-2 draw and denied a fighting Oman an upset victory in Sydney on Tuesday.
The Omanis, ranked 66 places below the Australians in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, looked set for a shock win with a 2-0 lead and 40 minutes left only for Tim Cahill and Holman to help salvage a point with goals to keep Australia second in Asia's Group B.
Holman, who has been little used by English Premier League strugglers Aston Villa this season, saved Australia from a humiliating home defeat when he unleashed a fierce long-range volley with five minutes left of normal time.
But the Australians will rue missing out on two crucial points as they bid for their third straight FIFA World Cup finals appearance in Brazil next year.
The Socceroos have just one win and six points from five qualifying games, and must at least maintain their number two spot in Group B behind Japan with three games still remaining.
Oman meanwhile move ahead of Iraq and Jordan into third place with two games to play. The Omanis, ranked 105th, rocked Australia with a goal from virtually their first attack in the sixth minute.
Amad Al Hosni played in Abdulaziz Al Miqbali, who got the better of defender Michael Thwaite and beat goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer from a tight angle with his left-foot drive. It was Al Miqbali's fourth goal in his 14th international and gave Oman a psychological boost against the flat Australians, missing suspended skipper Lucas Neill.
For much of the opening 45 minutes goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi, who plays for Wigan Athletic in the English Premier League, had little to do except keeping out a shot from Holman.
Defender Saad Al Mukhaini picked up the first yellow card of the match for his challenge on Fortuna Dusseldorf's Robbie Kruse in the 35th minute. Giant defender Robert Cornthwaite also went into the referee's book with a rugged challenge on the goalscorer Al Miqbali minutes after the resumption.
But the night turned worse for the Australians when Crystal Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak conceded an own goal in the 49th minute from an innocuous cross from Raed Ibrahim.
Two goals down, Australia hit back through their talisman Cahill who netted his 27th international goal three minutes later.
Cahill outjumped Al Mukhaini to head home Luke Wilkshire's corner to recharge the Australians from their lethargy. It was Cahill again who forced Al-Habsi into a flying save to beat away his bullet header off another corner with 16 minutes left.
Marco Bresciano only lasted 20 minutes as a substitute before he injured his knee in a jarring tackle and was replaced by Dutch-based wide man Tommy Oar in the 76th minute. Cahill had another headed chance off a corner, but it bounced over the bar to Oman's relief.
Holman threw the desperate Australians a lifeline when he unleashed a fierce drive outside the area to beat Al Habsi with five minutes of normal time left. Cahill almost pinched it for Australia deep in injury time with a header that Al-Habsi got down well to beat away.