Flyhalf Bernard Foley stepped up at the last minute and delivered, scoring 15 points to lead Australia past France 25-23 on Saturday.
Foley replaced an injured Quade Cooper at the last minute, and scored one try, two penalties, and converted the Wallabies' two other tries in a thrilling encounter at the Stade de France.
With the test not part of Australia's attempt at a grand slam of the home unions, a host of regulars were rested. But the odds improved when Cooper's ankle injury in training didn't pass muster, forcing a start on the in-form Foley.
France was in a buoyant mood after a convincing win over Samoa last week, and unveiled some showy moves. But it was made to pay for poor goalkicking, and it was no surprise when Camille Lopez's attempted dropped goal winner in injury time drifted wide left.
Playmaker Wesley Fofana and winger Virimi Vakatawa offered some dash, but they were largely contained by Australia.
The French kicked one early penalty and missed another before Vakatawa scored a superb try at the end of a move ignited by winger Noa Nakaitaci. Machenaud missed the conversion and Australia hit back.
Luke Morahan burst through the defense and earned a penalty that Foley converted. The visitors then went in front following a powerful scrum push, forcing Charles Ollivon to collapse the maul on the line. The French flanker was sin-binned and Australia was awarded a penalty try converted by Foley for a 10-8 lead.
Following a Foley penalty from 40 meters out, the French replied before halftime through Maxime Machenaud's boot, after Australia collapsed a scrum inside its 22.
France's defense cracked under a series of powerful drives near their line. Foley received the final pass and managed to sneak into a hole to make it 18-11, then converted his try.
Vakatawa dazzled in a second-half run to the tryline, where he offloaded for flyhalf Jean-Marc Doussain to touch down.
Wallabies center Tevita Kuridrani immediately restored his team's lead with an acrobatic finish in the corner after France defense failed to close him down.
Back came France, as Nakaitaci surged through the midfield and Fofana touched down following excellent passes. Machenaud converted and France was within two points. The French pushed hard to 10 meters out from the tryline, but Lopez couldn't cap the effort.
Australia 25 (Tevita Kuridrani, Bernard Foley tries; penalty try; Foley 2 conversions, 2 penalties)
France 23 (Wesley Fofana, Virimi Vakatawa, Jean-Marc Doussain tries; Maxime Machenaud conversion, 2 penalties).