It could have so easily been a nightmare for the Aussies, but another dream performance from Awer Mabil, with a little help from Tom Rogic and Chris Ikonomidis as well, led the Socceroos to a last-gasp 3-2 win over Syria and a spot in the Round of 16.

Australia looked disorganised and struggled to maintain meaningful possession for the opening half an hour, but were rewarded for establishing the slightest momentum when Mabil curled in a belter from long range.

But Syria had shown no problem in hurting the Socceroos and 2017 Asian Player of the Year, Omar Khrbin, exercised his quality immediately after, stealing in between the Socceroos centrebacks to head in from close range.

If Australia were shellshocked, they emerged with a point to prove in the second half. After dominating the majority of the second half with intricate interplay, Australia deservedly restored their lead when Ikonomidis latched on to a delightful Rogic cross.

They could have had a second when introduction Apostolos Giannou hit the post from a tight angle, but once again taking the lead did Graham Arnold's side little favours - Syria won a controversial penalty minutes later and Omar Al Soma comprehensively converted.

The draw looked to be a fair outcome, but Rogic smashed home a long-range strike in the final minute to cap off a fine performance for the midfielder, and end a horror group stage for the Aussies on an unlikely high.

"It's very big," Mabil said. "We said we need to keep our momentum going and we showed it tonight.

"It wasn't the start we wanted but we've scored seven goals so that's what we wanted."

Taking a break from the more-rehearsed lines we hear from footballers after a tight result, Mabil took the opportunity to explain an emotional celebration after his stunning opener.

"It's good to score," he said. "A lot of people suffer from mental health so that celebration is to bring peace to the mind.

"You just need to talk to someone. By covering the mouth, I mean that you need to talk - that's the story behind that.

"I'm the man for the people."