Socceroos draw 2-2 with Oman
The Socceroos' World Cup hopes hang in the balance after being held to a 2-2 draw by Oman in their qualifying match at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday.
Staring down the barrel of a 2-0 loss after the first 50 minutes, deadly aerialist Tim Cahill brought the game to life for Australia with his goal in the 51st minute while a Brett Holman missile levelled the score in the 85th.
The 105-ranked Oman stunned the Socceroos early with a goal through Abdul Aziz seven minutes in, while disaster struck right after the break with Mile Jedinak netting an own goal.
The world No.37 Australia remain in second spot in their group but level on points with Oman and seven points behind runaway leaders Japan, with only the top two teams securing an automatic berth to next year's showpiece.
With three matches left on the road to Brazil, including an away clash against runway group leaders Japan, Australia can ill afford to draw another match.
The Socceroos had a sloppy start to the game, not creating many chances and being too easily dispossessed, perhaps missing the leadership and vocal presence of suspended skipper Lucas Neill.
In contrast it was a well organised Oman side who took to the field not letting the Australians make any real inroads with their wayward crosses doing them no favours.
Aziz broke the deadlock early, outpacing Michael Thwaite to put his strike into the back of the net in the seventh minute, silencing the 34,600-strong crowd.
Holman had one of the few opportunities of the half and looked like levelling just before the break, forcing a save from Oman's Wigan 'keeper Ali Al Habsi after Cahill headed the ball back to him for the shot.
Jedinak continued his woeful night in the second half, sticking his foot out to stop a strike from Omani midfielder Raed Saleh only to send it into the net just after the break.
Cahill got one back for the hosts, heading home off a Wilkshire corner, seemingly sparking the Socceroos into action.
Cahill struck again with a header moments later, drawing a superb save from Al Habsi.
Wilkshire continued the assault on Oman's goal and looked like levelling in the 59th minute with his long range strike.
But it deflected off a defender to hit the crossbar then the post with Cahill just unable to direct the ball into the net.
Cahill threatened yet again with another header in the dying minutes but despite peppering the Omani goal with several dangerous headers it was Holman who found the equaliser with a sensational shot from about 25 yards out.