WATCH: Socceroos forced to settle for a draw in tense battle with China
Australia's road to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ has been dealt a blow after being held to a 1-1 draw by China in the UAE on Wednesday morning (AEDT).
Watch the key moments above or the extended highlights in the player below.
Mitch Duke's powerful first-half header looked to have the Socceroos on course for a crucial three points in their quest to qualify for a fifth consecutive World Cup.
Duke, who was one of two changes to Australia's starting side from Thursday's 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia in Sydney, scored his seventh international goal as the Socceroos dominated the first half.
But Graham Arnold's side were made to pay for not taking their chances when China were awarded a contentious penalty midway through the second half to level the scores.
After starting this phase of qualifying with three straight wins, the Socceroos have picked up two points from their last three matches to leave hopes of automatic qualification for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ in the balance.
Eager to bounce back from last week's goalless draw with Saudi Arabia, the Socceroos were quick to put pressure on China and created two excellent chances inside the first 11 minutes.
First Jackson Irvine sliced his opportunity wide after he was found inside the box by Aziz Behich before Mathew Leckie stung the palms of keeper Yan Junling.
While China always looked to pose a threat on the counter-attack, it was Australia who continued to create the most threatening goal-scoring opportunities.
Ajdin Hrustic was next to test the keeper, with his powerful free-kick into a crowded penalty palmed to safety by Junling.
Australia's dominance of possession and territory was eventually rewarded seven minutes before the break.
The dangerous Martin Boyle was the architect, swinging in a pin-point cross from the right which Duke met with a clinical downward header from close range.
It was Duke's fifth goal for the Socceroos this year, including his late strike in the 3-0 win over China earlier in the qualifying phase.
Leckie almost capitalised on a sublime Hrustic cross soon after but was quickly closed down by Junling to keep China in the contest heading to the break.
While scoring chances proved more difficult to come by after the break, Australia looked in control until China were given a lifeline back into the match midway through the second half.
After a lengthy VAR review, the referee adjudged a handball against James Jeggo in the box, with Wu Lei converting the penalty with 20 minutes to go.
Arnold brought on the likes of Jamie Maclaren, Awer Mabil and Riley McGree in the closing stages to try and find a winner but China held on as Australia finished 2021 with a draw.