Australia showed once again they can compete with the world's top sides but they failed to achieve the result their performance deserved.
A 1-1 draw with Denmark on Thursday kept the Socceroos in the hunt for a World Cup round of 16 berth but left their opponents in the box seat to join France in the knockout stage.
Les Bleus edged Peru 1-0 to make it two wins from two and secure their passage out of Group C, although top spot remains up for grabs.
In Group D, Croatia hammered a woeful Argentina 3-0 to reach the next stage for the first time in 20 years and push Lionel Messi's side to the brink of elimination.
In Samara, Christian Eriksen gave Denmark an early lead with a scorching volley that fizzed past Mat Ryan before the Socceroos No.1 had time to stick up an arm.
But Bert van Marwijk's men played their way into the game and were rewarded when a video review, which caused the Aussies heartache against France in their first-up loss, offered them the chance to equalise from the penalty spot after a handball.
Mr Reliable Mile Jedinak stepped up and slotted home with ease to make it two spot kicks converted in as many games for the Socceroos skipper.
Australia appeared the most likely after the break to find the winner but had to settle for a point.
"The last part of the puzzle is that we must make the difference by scoring one goal more than the opponent," van Marwijk said.
They get their chance to do so against Peru on Tuesday, needing a win to have any chance of emulating the 2006 Socceroos and reaching the second round.
Even a win may not be enough, dependent on Denmark's result against the French when they clash in the simultaneous kick offs next week.
In Yekaterinburg, a lone goal from Kylian Mbappe allowed France to clinch advancement despite Didier Deschamps' side being yet to hit top gear.
"We are in the knockout stages so we are very satisfied," the French coach said.
The loss extinguished Peru's hopes of getting out of the group stage.
"We left everything on the field against two very tough opponents," Peru coach Ricardo Gareca said.
And in an ominous warning to Australia.
"But this does not end here, we are going to close the World Cup with the same attitude," he said.
The day's action wound up in Nizhny Novgorod with Messi's frustrating international career suffering another kick in the guts.
"We have to swallow the poison," Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano said. "The game says it all."
A classy Croatia, led by Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, Messi's club teammate at Barcelona, dominated the second half with three goals to firm as one of the tournament's dark horses.
"We were excellent," Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said.
While Argentina's spirit was shot after going behind courtesy of a horrendous goalkeeping blunder, Croatia took full advantage to put everyone on notice.