Australia have been eliminated from the AFC Under-23 Championship in the group stage after a 3-2 loss to South Korea on Wednesday evening in China.
The Aussies needed to better Vietnam's result on matchday three in order to progress but failed in their bid.
Australia trailed 3-0 after 65 minutes, before a valiant fightback with goals from Nick Cowburn and Trent Buhagiar offering hope.
However, the defeat left Australia in third spot in Group D, with group winners South Korea and runners-up Vietnam, who drew 0-0 with Syria, progressing.
Lee Keun-ho's brace combined with a goal from Han Seung-gyu ensured that South Korea sealed top spot in Group D despite second half strikes from Australia.
South Korea commanded the first 45 in Kunshan and took a deserved two-goal lead to the break, although Ajdin Hrustic had a good penalty shout declined on the stroke of half-time.
Australia produced a far stronger performance in the second 45 and went close to pulling a goal back in the 50th, 52nd, 55th, 59th, and 62nd minutes respectively via a dangerous Cowburn cross, a George Blackwood header that clipped the post, a well-saved Hrustic shot, a Brandon Wilson strike that flew over the bar, plus a Blackwood effort that was expertly saved by Kang Hyeon-mu.
And while South Korea made the score 3-0 in the 65th minute after a well-placed finish from Lee, Australia refused to give up the fight.
Substitute Milislav Popovic’s cross was deflected onto the woodwork in the 67th minute, before Cowburn put Australia on the board five minutes later.
Cowburn finished off a slick move through midfield after Kang could only manage to deflect a cross into the path of the Toronto-Awaba junior.
Four minutes later Australia struck again when Buhagiar wriggled his way through some lax Korea Republic defending before sliding his strike beyond Kang at the near post.
In the 80th minute Blackwood sent a header at goal however was expertly denied by Kang, and in the second minute of added time the Adelaide United striker nodded another effort just over the bar.
The last attempt for Australia to restore parity to the contest came in the fifth minute of added time when the impressive Cowburn saw his header claimed by arguably the busiest man on the pitch, Kang.
Korea Republic 3 (Lee Keun-ho 18’, 65’, Han Seung-gyu 44’)
Australia 2 (Cowburn 72’, Buhagiar 76’)
Venue: Kunshan Stadium, China
Referee: Abdulrahman Al-Jassim (Qatar)
Australia: 1. Paul IZZO (Gk), 2. Nicholas COWBURN, 3. Alexander GERSBACH, 5. Aleksandar SUSNJAR, 9. George BLACKWOOD, 10. Ajdin HRUSTIC, 14. Riley MCGREE (7. Trent BUHAGIAR 46’), 17. Brandon WILSON (8. Stefan MAUK 82’), 20. Thomas DENG, 22. Daniel DE SILVA (c), 23. Benjamin GARUCCIO (13. Milislav POPOVIC 58’)
Substitutes not used: 4. Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 6. Aiden O’NEILL, 12. Tom GLOVER (Gk), 15. Keanu BACCUS, 16. Joseph CHAMPNESS, 18. Danijel NIZIC (Gk), 19. Deni JURIC, 21. Ruon TONGYIK
Yellow cards: Susnjar
Red cards: Nil