Australia 14 Ireland 6
A George Smith try and a penalty are all that separate Australia from Ireland side in their World Cup Pool A showdown, with a quarter-final place against Scotland up for grabs.
The blindside flanker crossed after 12 minutes in which Australia had shown the attacking flair and penetration that has been missing for much of the year.
But Ireland, led from the front by the impressive Keith Wood, halted the tide and then reversed the momentum, putting together a series of fluid attacks that had the Wallabies under pressure.
Mat Rogers was sin-binned just before the interval for repeatedly slowing the ball down, and was joined by Shane Horgan for excessive use of the boot.
Ireland’s only reward was two Ronan O’Gara penalties – he also missed two - while Flatley landed one for Australia.
O’Gara then missed his second shot, this time from wide out on the left, after Flatley had been penalised for collapsing the maul.
But it heralded Ireland’s most promising period so far as Wood, in typically inspiration touch, stormed his way through Gregan and the Wallaby defence.
But Anthony Foley let the ball slip from his grasp as the attack was on and Australia counter-attacked.
Though it signalled Australia’s ambitions, Ireland survived a missed penalty from Flatley and then swung the momentum back their way with a fluid, multi-phase charge up field which left the
O’Gara was flattened by a thuddering hit in midfield from Smith, but the attack continued and eventually the Wallabies conceded under pressure and the fly-half stepped up to land the penalty.
Australia sent Sailor away down the left, but showing his old rugby league habits, he ran infield and the chance was gone with Denis Hickie enjoying help in making the tackle and the Irish turned it over.
When Australia opted to kick for touch, Ireland stole the line-out. They then lost their full-back, Mat Rogers, to the sin-bin for repeatedly slowing the ball down.
Ireland’s Shane Horgan was also dispatched for excessive use of the boot, prompting Gregan to react angrily.
When referee O’Brien had settled matters, Larkham broke clear from half-way, but was dragged down metres from the Ireland line.
Munster's John Kelly emerged from the dressingroom for influential wing Denis Hickie, who sustained an ankle injury during the first half.