WALES withstood an Australia fightback in Tokyo to record a vital win in a World Cup thriller.

Warren Gatland’s men stormed into a 23-8 lead at half-time thanks to tries by Hadleigh Parkes and Gareth Davies but had to dig deep to beat the Wallabies for a success that leaves them on the brink of the quarter-finals.

Not only that, but victory means they are likely to avoid the half of the draw featuring England and New Zealand.

It was Wales’ first win against one of the southern hemisphere big guns since the 1987 World Cup, and they did it the hard way.

It looked set to be a comfortable win when they led by 18 points early in the second half but the Wallabies rallied and it wasn’t until a key turnover in the 80th minute that Wales could breathe comfortably.

Getting over the line ensures that they avoid a nervy shootout with Fiji and if they deal with the Islanders then a finale against minnows Uruguay will claim Pool D top spot.

Campaign Series:

Wales made a perfect start with an Aaron Wainwright turnover after a counter-ruck in the first minute to earn possession that Dan Biggar rewarded with a drop goal.

The fly-half pulled a penalty attempt but the Six Nations champions were soon 10 points to the good with Biggar the architect.

Playing with penalty advantage he put in a perfect cross-kick in the 22 for centre Hadleigh Parkes to claim and cross for a 10-0 lead after 13 minutes.

The Wallabies responded with a superb score of their own after moving into Welsh territory from a scrum penalty.

Centre Samu Kerevi went on the charge and then, playing with penalty advantage like Wales, the kick from Bernard Foley put winger Adam Ashley-Cooper over.

Biggar was replaced after a blow to the head with a brave last-ditch tackle on Kerevi and his opposite number Foley reduced the deficit to 10-8 from the tee.

However, Wales finished the half strongly to take total control with Rhys Patchell slotting a pair of lovely penalties before Gareth Davies went over with a trademark interception of a pass on halfway.

Gatland’s men were 23-8 up at the break and the Wallabies were in serious trouble and in need of a rapid start to the second half.

Instead it was Wales that struck with a canny Patchell drop goal after a slick attack stretching the advantage to 26-8.

The lead was almost a comfortable one… but the Wallabies are a dangerous team and they swiftly struck.

Replacement Matt Toomua sparked an attack that ended in back rower David Pocock putting full-back Dane Haylett-Petty over. Toomua converted for 26-15.

That was a dashing attack but it was a direct approach that made it a one score game entering the final quarter, the Australians going to the corner from penalties before slamming away with carries to weaken the defence for Hooper to go over.

Toomua’s conversion made it 26-22 and he soon slotted a penalty from a dominant scrum.

Wales needed to rally and did just that with a lineout penalty allowing Patchell to stretch the lead back to four points with eight minutes left.

The kick was vital with the Wallabies ending the game in Welsh territory but without denying Gatland’s men.

Australia: D Haylett-Petty, A Ashley-Cooper, J O'Connor, S Kerevi, Koroibete, B Foley, W Genia, S Sio, S Latu, A Alaalatoa, I Rodda, R Arnold, D Pocock, M Hooper, I Naisarani.

Replacements: J Uelese, J Slipper, S Kepu, A Coleman, L Salakaia-Loto, N White, M Toomua, K Beale.

Scorers: tries – A Ashley-Cooper, D Haylett-Petty, M Hooper; conversions – M Toomua (2); penalties – B Foley, M Toomua

Wales: L Williams, G North, J Davies, H Parkes, J Adams, D Biggar (R Patchell 28), G Davies (T Williams 70), W Jones (N Smith 49), K Owens (E Dee 65), T Francis (D Lewis 63), J Ball (A Shingler 63), AW Jones, A Wainwright (R Moriarty 49), J Tipuric, J Navidi.

Scorers: tries – H Parkes, G Davies; conversions – D Biggar, R Patchell; penalties – R Patchell (3); drop goal – D Biggar, R Patchell

Referee: Romain Poite (France)