A long-range rocket from Awer Mabil was the bright spot as the Socceroos beat New Zealand 1-0 in their World Cup farewell in Brisbane.
A staggering 11 years since the teams' last meeting, it was Australia's first game since qualifying for the World Cup and last on home soil before the Qatar showpiece in November.
Aside from Mabil's 33rd minute strike, it was far from pretty for the hosts on a wet Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium.
The 27-year-old looked dangerous in space, curling his first long-range effort just wide of the right post before nailing the encore in the opposite corner minutes later.
It was Mabil's eighth goal for his country but first in Australia, coming on the back of his move to Spanish La Liga outfit Cadix CF.
Sloppy defence in the first half wasn't exploited by an All Whites side that looked sharp despite their Cup qualification near-miss in June.
"Disappointing after the Costa Rica result, where I thought we were outstanding and to lose again when I thought we dominated for long periods," All Whites coach Danny Hay said.
Socceroos' substitute Mat Leckie's shot was deflected onto the post after Martin Boyle's fast break, a stand-out moment in a relatively subdued second half.
Arnold, who enjoyed former mentor Guus Hiddink's cameo as assistant coach, made five changes to the side that started against Peru in their World Cup qualifier.
But there were no major experiments, the many fresh faces included in the 31-strong squad lining the bench with a rematch on Sunday in Auckland their target.
Adam Taggart and Ajdin Hrustic subbed for Maclaren and McGree early in the second half, while Leckie and Nathaniel Atkinson replaced Mabil and Fran Karacic with 20 minutes to play.
Joel King and Connor Metcalfe then played the final minutes, on for Jackson Irvine and Aziz Behich.
Arnold said all but one of the starting side wouldn't travel to New Zealand, his theory to reward those who got the side to Qatar with a home game - and assess their fitness by playing man-on-man - despite some arriving on the eve of the game.
"If there's one thing disappointing I think we lost the physical battle," Arnold said.
"I wanted to reward the boys who gave a lot of sacrifices to get us through the campaign ... now (in Auckland) it's for the kids."
Australia were shaky early and Trent Sainsbury was at the centre of it, the defender's first pass lobbing into the danger zone and then another poor touch gifting the All Whites another golden chance.
They took neither though, Sainsbury then denied a goal of his own when Jackson Irvine was deemed to have knocked down a defender in a goal-mouth scramble from a corner.
Empoli talent Liberato Cacace proved a menace on the left edge for New Zealand without finding the net, while Newcastle United striker Chris Wood was physical up front in a friendly that had plenty of spark 100 years on from the teams' first meeting.