CHENGDU, China (AFP) - Australia came from behind twice to scramble a 2-2 draw with Canada and book a place in the quarter-finals of the women's World Cup for the first time on Thursday.
Captain Cheryl Salisbury fired home a 92nd minute equaliser to cancel out a goal from Canadian skipper Christine Sinclair that came five minutes from the end of regulation time and looked like the match winner.
Appearing in her 103rd match, Sinclair scored in the 85th-minute to put the Canadians 2-1 up and within reach of a quarter-final spot.
It was a sickening blow that Australian coach Tom Sermanni thought would prove fatal.
"We stopped playing the way we usually play in the second half and when they scored late I thought the game was all over," he said.
"My players showed a lot of character and resilience, though, and I was so pleased when that final goal fell in.
"It was a very long 90 minutes."
That crucial equaliser fell to the boot of central defender Salisbury with Australia's last surge of the game.
The point earns Australia the second qualifying spot and a quarter-final in Tianjin on Sunday.
Norway took top spot in Group C following their 7-2 win against already eliminated Ghana.
Australia beat Ghana 4-1 in their opening game last week for their first World Cup win in 12 years then drew 1-1 with former world champions Norway.
Canada lost 2-1 to Norway in their opener but beat Ghana 4-0 in their second tie.
The Canadians were 1-0 up with just 32 seconds of the match gone after Melissa Tancredi shot cleanly past Australian 'keeper Melissa Barbieri in their first attack of the game.
Australia had to wait for the equaliser but were back on level terms with a superb free-kick from midfield general Collette McCallum after 53 minutes.
The Australians, who have been eliminated in the first round of the last three World Cups, were looking sharper and more dangerous throughout the match.
But it was Canada, semi-finalists four years ago, who went ahead through captain Sinclair's brilliant header with just five minutes to go.
It was the Canadian captain's third goal of the tournament and 84th for her country. But her opposite number Salisbury had the last word with her last-gasp strike levelling the score at 2-2.
Canada's Norwegian coach Even Pellerud said his side had dominated the second half but allowed Australia one last fatal chance.
"We gave the Aussies too much possession in the first half and this proved to be a mistake as they improved as the game went on," he said
"We hesitated on the ball deep into stoppage time and allowed them one last chance and they took full advantage of it."
Prior to the match the sides had met 13 times, sharing honours with six wins and a draw.
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