Wales were condemned to an autumn series whitewash after Australia fly-half Kurtley Beale broke their hearts at the Millennium Stadium.
Beale scored a try with 26 seconds left to deny Wales victory and drop them outside the world's top eight teams ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup pool draw in London on Monday.
Leigh Halfpenny looked as though he had done enough in terms of claiming a priceless victory with four penalties, but Beale, who had earlier claimed a penalty hat-trick, had other ideas as Australia secured a 14-12 win.
Wales have now lost seven Tests in succession, eight on the bounce to Australia and they will be a tier-three nation for the World Cup draw, potentially meaning a group of punishing proportions.
Wales produced their best display of the autumn in head coach Warren Gatland's last game at the helm before he begins full-time preparations for heading up next summer's British and Irish Lions tour to Australia.
And his players almost did enough to give him a quality send-off, but they could not keep Beale quiet during the frantic closing stages, with the game ending when Halfpenny was carried away on a stretcher before Wallabies skipper Nathan Sharpe attempted the final conversion in his last game before retirement.
Several Wales players stepped up to the mark, including Halfpenny, centre Jamie Roberts and fly-half Rhys Priestland, who had his best game of a calendar year that had mostly seen him struggle for confidence.
The overwhelming majority of a 58,000 crowd were not bothered by what had been a tryless affair until the final seconds.
Today was all about Wales rediscovering a winning formula, and they went agonisingly close to achieving it.
Wales, under interim head coach Rob Howley's direction, will begin their RBS 6 Nations title defence against Ireland in Cardiff on February 2, and it is a game that they can now at least look forward to with confidence, despite the Wallabies loss.