Australia will play Olympic champions in a daunting men’s rugby sevens quarter-final task after the Samu Kerevi-inspired side showed vast improvement in a 14-12 loss to New Zealand.
The result left Australia third in their pool, scraping into medal contention as one of two lucky losers in Tokyo thanks to a face-saving 42-5 defeat of South Korea on Monday that boosted their points differential.
That was enough to see them qualify in seventh and create a match-up with the defending Olympic champions Fiji at 8pm (AEST) on Tuesday.
The opportunity – they are now only one win away from at least competing for bronze – comes despite a horror loss to Argentina to open their campaign on Monday.
And there is hope with Fiji scraping past Japan and Canada on Monday before showing better form in a 33-7 defeat of Britain on Tuesday to seal top spot in their pool.
The winner of that quarter-final will play the winner of South Africa and Argentina for a place in the gold medal game.
Australia could have finished the pool on top with a 20-point defeat of their trans-Tasman rivals.
And the boilover looked on the cards when Australia began impressively, Wallabies’ recruit Kerevi dominating the early exchanges as they hogged possession and played with composure to finish the half up 12-0.
The Kiwis scored to start the second half but a yellow card for Dylan Collier gave Australia a two-minute window with a one-man advantage.
They coughed up possession on the first play though, Andrew Knewstubb dancing through for the go-ahead try.
Australia knocked on twice more in the final stages searching for the reply and will hope to be more clinical if presented the chance against the Fijians, who made history by winning the country’s first gold medal when the sport debuted in 2016.