(CNN) -- Australia were frustrated in their bid to become the first side to reach next year's World Cup finals in South Africa after beating Uzbekistan 2-0 to regain control of Asian Group A.
Harry Kewell converts from the spot to leave Australia on the brink of a place at the 2010 World Cup finals.
Had Bahrain and Qatar drawn their match in Manama later on Wednesday, the Socceroos would have been celebrating qualification.
Instead they must wait at least until their next match against Qatar after striker Fouzi Aaish hit the only goal of the game for Bahrain from a free kick after 52 minutes.
The top two will qualify for the finals with the third-placed side facing a play-off against the third team in Group B with the winner of that clash taking on New Zealand.
Japan, who have 11 points from five games, are favorites to progress along with Australia who have a two-point advantage.
Second half goals from substitute Josh Kennedy and Harry Kewell, from the penalty spot, saw Australia triumph at Sydney's Stadium Australia in front of 57,292 fans.
Australia endured a frustrating first half, but Kennedy made his mark after just six minutres on the pitch when he headed beyond keeper Ignatiy Nesterov from Mark Bresciano's cross.
Seven minutes later Richard Garcia was bundled over in the penalty area and UAE referee Ali Al Badawi pointed to the spot, Kewell firing his shot low inside the right hand upright.
In Seoul, North Korea looked to have done enough to earn a point to keep them on top of Group B but Kim Chi-Woo gave the South a valuable victory with an 88th minute goal.
It leaves South Korea leading the group on 11 points to the North's 10, and with a game in hand.