Last November's 2-2 draw with minnows Thailand has left the Socceroos' World Cup qualification path on precarious footing.
Australia sit third in Group B, one point outside the top-two automatic qualifying zone, and begin the final five qualifying games playing catch-up.
TRICKY ROAD TO RUSSIA 2018
With Group B as it lies, a top-two finish is far from straightforward. One point separates the top four in a bottleneck that gives even more weight to all of this year's five fixtures. Leaders Saudi Arabia and second-placed Japan are level on 10 points, while Australia and the fourth-placed UAE are on nine.
EVEN THIRD PLACE IS NO GUARANTEE
Finish third and Australia still have a chance to qualify via a play-off against the third-placed team from Group A. That would be followed by a difficult tie against the fourth-placed CONCACAF nation, which could be Mexico or even the United States. Even that path isn't simple anymore. The UAE are pushing hard and the March 28 showdown in Sydney shapes as a must-win for the Socceroos.
IN AUSTRALIA'S FAVOUR
This year's draw. Ange Postecoglou's men have already done the hard yards in away matches and they'll now benefit from home fixtures against the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. While that doesn't guarantee points, it's a markedly easier run than last year's gruelling travel schedule. First up, though, they must play Iraq in neutral Iran. And of course, August's away blockbuster in Japan that could be the clincher.
GROUP B STANDINGS
Saudi Arabia -- P 5, W 3, D 1, L 1, GD 4, Pts 10
Japan -- P 5, W 3, D 1, L 1, GD 3, Pts 10
Australia -- P 5, W 2, D 3, L 0, GD 3, Pts 9
UAE -- P 5, W 3, D 0, L 2, GD 1, Pts 9
Iraq -- P 5, W 1, D 0, L 4, GD -2, Pts 3
Thailand -- P 5, W 0, D 1, L 4, GD -9, Pts 1
AUSTRALIA'S REMAINING WORLD CUP QUALIFYING FIXTURES
Iraq (A) March 23, 2017
United Arab Emirates (H) March 28, 2017
Saudi Arabia (H) June 8, 2017
Japan (A) August 31, 2017
Thailand (H) September 5, 2017