(CNN) -- Australia drew 1-1 with World Cup opponents Ghana despite playing with 10 men for over an hour of Saturday's Group D clash in Rustenburg.
The result put Ghana in pole position to qualify for the second round in South Africa, with four points from two games.
Serbia's shock win over Germany on Friday left both sides on three points, while Australia prop up the table with just one.
Australia's key player Harry Kewell, returning from long-term injury, was shown a straight red card by Italian referee Roberto Rosetti in the 24th minute after being adjudged to have deliberately blocked a goalbound shot from Ghana's Jonathan Mensah with his arm.
Brett Holman had given Australia -- who had Tim Cahill sent off in their opening defeat by Germany -- the lead in the 11th minute, capitalizing on a mistake by Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson.
Kingson failed to gather a ball from Mark Bresciano's 30-yard free-kick, and Holman pounced on the rebound and fired home from close range.
Going a goal down galvanized the Ghanaians, who embarked upon a series of promising attacks.
The Black Stars' pressure eventually told when they were awarded a penalty in for Kewell's misdemeanor.
When the distraught Galatasaray midfielder eventually left the pitch, Asamoah Gyan -- who scored the winning penalty in Ghana's first World Cup match against Serbia -- made no mistake from the spot.
Ghana were denied a halftime lead when Kevin Prince Boateng's surging run into the penalty area ended with a low shot, but Socceroos keeper Mark Schwarzer dived low to his right to pull off a fine save.
Ghana continued to press forward in the second half but failed to make their man advantage tell.
And as second half wore on their shooting became increasingly speculative and wild, although substitute Quincy Owusu Abeyie forced a save from Schwarzer in injury-time.
Luke Wilkshire should have put Australia ahead again in the 72nd minute when he was clean through on goal, but the midfielder shot straight at Kingson, who parried the ball away.
Substitute striker Joshua Kennedy was on hand for the rebound, but could only scuff his effort into the ground, allowing Kingson time to gather the ball.
After the match, Australia's coach Pim Verbeek conceded that his team's chances of reaching the next round of the competition were slim, but he refused to give up hope.
"The next game we have to win at least 3-0. We are still in the race, but it will be quite difficult," he told the BBC.
"But I'm really proud of the players, I think playing with 10 players for such a long time was not easy."