Two early goals left many predicting a white wash but a header from Tim Cahill reinvigorated his side and it came close to snatching a point before Jean Beausejour's late hit.
Chile denied a brave fightback from Australia to win their FIFA World Cup opener 3-1 in Cuiaba on Friday.
Jorge Sampaoli's men stormed out of the blocks in the Group B affair, with Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia on target inside 14 minutes.
Australia's all-time leading scorer Tim Cahill popped up to head a goal back for Ange Postecoglou's side on 35 minutes, as the team steadied the ship.
Despite several chances - multiple off the head of Cahill and a brilliantly taken volley from midfielder Mark Bresciano - Australia could not find an equalizer, but did gain plenty of fans as the team fought gamely after Chile's red-hot opening.
Chile sealed the points when second-half substitute Jean Beausejour struck from outside the area in injury time.
The South American nation dominated from the outset, and while it attacked down the left channel in the opening 10 minutes, it would soon garner much more joy from the other side of the Arena Pantenal.
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Australia's time on the ball was minimal, although the one path to get in behind the Chileans would have been to draw the wingers forward and release the likes of Tommy Oar and Mathew Leckie.
Oar almost got onto the end of a long ball through from captain Mile Jedinak in the fifth minute, which drew Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo out of his area.
Chile turned its possession dominance into a two-goal lead inside 14 minutes, with star forward Sanchez and Valdivia finding the back of the net.
Sanchez finished after some scrappy Australia defending allowed Charles Aranguiz onto the right by line, and his chipped cross found the head of Eduardo Vargas.
Vargas did not connect firmly with his header, and it fell fortunately to Sanchez, who side-footed into the back of the net, despite Australian custodian Mat Ryan getting a hand on the effort.
Moments later, Valdivia was left unmarked at the edge of the area, and Sanchez found him with a pin-point pass. The Palmeiras midfielder tucked his shot in off the crossbar to double the South American nation's advantage.
Australia found its footing in the contest when Cahill buried a vintage header in the 35th minute.
Ivan Franjic's cross from the right found the New York Red Bulls striker in the box, and he leapt higher than Chile center back Gary Medel to power home past Bravo.
Cahill almost made it two in as many minutes, but Bravo was up to the task with his right-foot effort from a tight angle as Australia's belief grew.
Injury struck the Australians early in the second half - with Ryan McGowan replacing right back Franjic - although it did not halt the push for an equalizer.
Oar found the head of Cahill with a brilliant ball from the left on 50 minutes, although he failed to connect with any vigour - and the front man claimed he was fouled in the area.
Cahill had even more reasons to be aggrieved as his buried header in the 53rd minute was disallowed, albeit rightly so, by the offside flag.
However, Chile was always just one goal away from seeing off the Australian resurgence, and Vargas poked a goal-bound effort past Ryan only for center back Alex Wilkinson to clear off the line.
Leckie was running hard at Chile's defense, and his barnstorming run in the 66th minute failed to see him fire off a shot, but the FSV Frankfurt man had put left back Eugenio Mena on notice.
Cahill kept jumping, and in the 70th minute sent a header just over Bravo's crossbar.
Beausejour put the nail in the coffin in stoppage time, hammering home from outside the area to seal the win for Chile.