Mitchell Duke’s clinical header in the first half helped the Socceroos secure three points.

A spirited Australian team have beaten Tunisia 1-0 in their second World Cup match in Qatar, with Mitchell Duke’s smart finish early in the first half being the deciding factor in the highly competitive showdown.

Saturday’s result at Al Janoub Stadium keeps Australia’s qualifying hopes alive and sees them move up to second in Group D.

Tunisia are now winless in their first two games and are bottom of the group.

Australia had previously won only two games at the World Cup and entered this edition via a play-off.

But they started better against a Tunisian team who held Denmark 0-0 in their opener and are looking to reach the knockout stages for the first time.

The match was shown on primetime Saturday night television in Australia and viewers watched their gritty side dominate for the first 15 minutes, not firing a shot.

Tunisia had the first goal in the 19th minute, but captain Youssef Msakni was pushed out before defender Mohamed Drager flew over.

Australia took the lead with deserved possession in the 23rd minute.

Craig Goodwin, who scored the opener in the loss to France, crossed from the left and the ball ricocheted to Duke who was able to throw his header over his own shoulder into the net.

The Japan-based centre-forward, 31, exchanged angry words with the Tunisian bench when he was bundled after half an hour.

The skirmish ended in a handshake with Manchester United substitute Hannibal Mejbri, the teenager.

Another England player, Stoke City defender Harry Souttar made a heroic last-ditch block of the dangerous Msakni as half-time approached.

Tunisia’s fans had their heads in stoppage time when Msakni finally broke free from Souttar, only going wide at close range with his side foot wide.

Coach Jalel Kadri retired Drager at half-time and replaced him with a midfielder, Ferjani Sassi, and a game that had simmered up to that point threatened to boil over.

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Tunisia dominated the game in the second half, but Australia kept the lead [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Australia played at the break and were inches from a second, but Mathew Leckie was unable to make contact on a low cross as he slid in front of goal.

Minutes later, goalkeeper and skipper Mathew Ryan denied Msakni at close range and Australia all but held on under intense pressure to throw Tunisia’s World Cup campaign into deep trouble.

The Socceroos face Denmark – who play France later on Saturday – in their final group game and the knockout round is in sight.

Their best World Cup performance came in 2006 when they also reached the last 16, in the time of Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka.

Graham Arnold’s Australia don’t have players like that, but they have a lot of heart. In front of 42,000 spectators at the Al Janoub Stadium, where their fans were heavily outnumbered, they delivered an exceptional performance and won their first World Cup match since 2010.

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