The Kookaburras have stumbled yet again at the penultimate Olympic Games hurdle, losing a tense semi-final to Germany 4-2 to miss their shot at a gold medal.
Germany twice fought back bravely from a goal down to win - overrunning Australia in the second half to power into the gold medal match.
For the second successive Olympics, Australia's men's hockey team will play off for bronze after going into the tournament warm favourites.
World No.2 Germany were expected to be Australia's gold medal match opponents, but the Germans' second place in their group ensured an early - and ultimately deadly - banana skin for the world No.1.
The Kookaburras appeared to have taken control of a high-octane game with Glenn Turner's goal seven minutes after halftime giving Australia a 2-1 lead.
Turner's goal followed first half finishes from Australia's Kieran Govers and Germany's Moritz Fuerste.
Then Germany launched wave after wave of attack, and some poor defending allowed Matthias Witthaus to be left free in the shooting circle, and he hammered home to equalise on 48 minutes.
Germany then torched Australia's defence as the Kookaburras cracked under the pressure - Timo Wess giving the reigning Olympic champions the lead with a well-worked penalty corner on 59 minutes.
Four minutes later, the game was wrapped up as Florian Fuchs added a fourth to finish off the Kookaburras, who have only won Olympic gold in men's hockey once.
The Kookaburras went into the tournament world No.1 after winning the World Cup, three Champions Trophy titles and a Commonwealth Games gold medal since their third place finish in Beijing.
Germany now face the winners of the Netherlands-Great Britain semi-final in Saturday's gold medal match.
The Kookaburras will meet the losers of the other semi-final to play off for bronze.