Matildas star Emily van Egmond has struck an added-time thunderbolt to salvage a 1-1 draw in their Olympic qualifying clash with China in Sydney.

When the Steel Roses broke the deadlock in the 86th minute through Tang Jiali, Australia was staring down the barrel of a shock loss at Bankwest Stadium on Thursday night.

But fresh off a maiden international hat-trick in Monday's 6-0 rout of Thailand, van Egmond came to Australia's rescue by blasting a 20-yard belter into the top left corner in the second minute of added time.

It means the Matildas finish above China on goal difference in Group B, thus avoiding a dangerous home-and-away play-off against world No.20 South Korea.

They'll now face second-place Group A finishers Vietnam to clinch a spot in Tokyo.

Not in the mood to muck around, Matildas coach Ante Milicic opted for a full-strength side as he swung six changes.

Back in the starting line-up, skipper Sam Kerr showed no lingering signs of the troublesome quad that reduced her to bench cameos in Australia's routs over Thailand and Taiwan.

The Chelsea superstar broke loose on goal in the third minute with a deft touch but unselfishly passed off to Caitlin Foord who sprayed her shot wide.

Bristol City signing Chloe Logarzo soon went down clutching her face after a heavy challenge from Wu Haiyan.

It earned Australia a free-kick but van Egmond couldn't produce a long-range effort to test Chinese shot-stopper Peng Shimeng.

The Matildas were dropping like flies, with an inadvertent elbow from Zhai Qingwei to Hayley Raso's face drawing blood.

After van Egmond drew a free-kick, Peng denied Australia's best chance of the first-half by parrying away Elise Kellond-Knight's long-range effort.

It was chaos moments later as Kellond-Knight thundered a clearance into the shins of Li Ying which almost ricocheted into the net.

China was slowly working their way into the match and striker Wang Shanshan would have been clean through on goal if not for a questionable offside call.

Not to be denied, Wang struck the woodwork with a wobbly long-range effort before half-time.

The Steel roses continued to cause the Matildas' trouble after the break, with Tang leaving a trio of defenders in her wake before producing a low save from Lydia Williams.

Milicic turned to his bench for a spark, bringing on Kyah Simon and Tameka Yallop.

Desperate lunging blocks from Polkinghorne and Steph Catley in quick succession stopped Australia from falling behind.

But their resistance was broken as Ma Jun teed up Tang for a blistering late strike from outside the box before van Egmond found one of her own to save the Aussies.