Mark Viduka scored twice in the final 10 minutes to seal a 4-0 win for Australia over Thailand and earn the Socceroos a place in the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup.
The result flattered Graham Arnold’s team after Thailand dominated the second half and had the chances to pull level after Michael Beauchamp had given the Australians the lead with a 21st minute header.
But it was Australia’s aerial prowess that won them the game with Viduka holding off the Thai defence to score the goal that effectively won the game 10 minutes from time before sealing the result with a header three minutes later.
Harry Kewell then completed the win when he slotted past Kosin Hathairatanakul in injury time.
Graham Arnold made four changes from the team that lost 3-1 to Iraq, with Kewell axed along with Patrick Kisnorbo and Brett Holman while Lucas Neill missed the game due to suspension.
As a result, Beauchamp and John Aloisi started, as did Sydney FC duo Mark Milligan and David Carney, and the Australians looked the better for the changes.
With the rain falling incessantly throughout the first 45 minutes, the Socceroos started the game at a higher tempo than they have in their previous two games and they dominated the early stages of the game.
It took the Australians 21 minutes to put themselves on the scoreboard when Luke Wilkshire sent his free kick into the Thai penalty area and Beauchamp was left unmarked to head past Kosin.
Suchao Nutnum could have responded just two minutes later for the Thais only for his long-range shot to fly straight at Mark Schwarzer while moments later Suree Sukha sent in a searing low cross that Kiatisuk Senamuang only just failed to direct into the Australian goal.
Needing a draw to progress to the knockout phase, the Thais pushed for the equaliser and dominated the second period, although Wilkshire went close to adding a second just seconds after the restart.
Suree continued to cause problems down the right for Thailand while Tawan Sripan and Kiatisuk worked tirelessly in attack, and it was the former Hudderfield Town man who set up substitute Pipat Thonkanya with a back-heel into the area, only for Pipat to shoot straight at Schwarzer.
Kewell came off the bench and headed over the bar in the 68th minute before another long range effort from Suchao blistered the paint of Schwarzer’s left post. Datsakorn Thonglao tried his luck from distance soon after, only for the Middlesbrough goalkeeper to hold onto the shot.
With 10 minutes remaining and with the Thais pushing hard for the equaliser, Viduka killed off the game.
His first came when Tim Cahill sent in his cross from the left and Viduka controlled the ball on his chest before holding off the Thai defence and firing past Kosin.
Three minutes later Cahill and Viduka linked up again, with the Everton man crossing from the left this time to allow the powerfully built striker to head home.
And Kewell completed the scoring right at the end when he ran in unopposed on Kosin before sliding the ball to the right of the keeper.