Australia take a seven points lead into the second Test following their International Rules victory over Ireland in Limerick.
Australian captain Adam Goodes led by example, top-scoring with four overs, and the Irish needed a spirited late comeback and a superb Bernard Brogan goal to salvage something from a lacklustre performance.
Anthony Tohill’s men trailed by 18 points with seven minutes to play, but staged a rousing finish to set up an intriguing decider at Croke Park next weekend.
It was an encounter devoid of the physicality which has marked previous meetings of the nations, and while the Australians have often been remembered for their violent approach to the hybrid game, this time they impressed the big crowd at the Gaelic Grounds with their football skills.
Australia took some time to settle, but once they got their momentum going, their movement was quite dazzling.
They quickly got to grips with handling and kicking the round ball, and overs from
Adam Goodes, James Frawley and Daniel Cross wiped out the early advantage the Irish had gained through Bernard Brogan, Kevin Reilly and Sean Cavanagh.
A flowing move set up what looked like a certain goal for Todd Banfield, but he blazed over the bar to put Anthony Tohill’s side under increasing pressure.
But they finished the opening quarter impressively, with skipper Steven McDonnell hitting four points, including a superb over from wide on the left, to narrow the gap to three, Australia ahead by 12 points to nine at the break.
Ireland looked much smarter in the early stages of the second quarter, but could mange just one three-pointer from Daniel Goulding, while Martin Clarke, Tadhg
Kennelly and Sean Cavanagh should have done better with scoring opportunities.
And they were denied by the handling of veteran goalkeeper Dustin Fletcher, who displayed confidence in coming off his line to claim high balls.
With Jarrad McVeigh showing exceptional energy and workrate, the Australians got back on top and a superb mark and over from inspirational skipper Goodes got them going again.
Eddie Betts and Banfield also steered over three-pointers and at the halfway stage the tourists led by 21-16.
They continued to press and, but for some excellent defending from Graham Canty and Kevin Reilly would have stretched the advantage.
The third quarter was 10 minutes old before Matthew Boyd, with his side’s first behind, extended Australia’s lead.
The movement of the Irish forwards was lacking in ideas and positivity, but former Kerry stars Kennelly and Tommy Walsh ignited an old Kingdom spark to combine for a superb three-pointer from the latter.
But once again, the Aussies stamped their authority on the contest, and pushed Ireland deep into their own half with well-placed passes and confident marks.
Leighton Montagna hammered over a couple of superb long-range overs, and Eddie Betts also grabbed a three-pointer for a 13-point cushion.
Just before the end of the penultimate spell, Leighton Glynn garnered three points from a much-needed mark and going into the final 20 minute segment Ireland trailed by 32-22.
Goodes continued to inspire and clipped the crossbar with a fisted effort as his side moved into a commanding 47-29 lead.
But Ireland finally found their fighting spirit in the final seven minutes and Brogan raced through the middle to rocket home a wonderful goal; the only six-pointer of the game.
Ireland scored the game’s last 11 points and gave themselves plenty to play for in next Saturday’s second Test at Croke Park.
Ireland: S Cluxton (0-0-1, o-p), C McKeever, F Hanley, B Donaghy, S McDermott, G Canty, K Reilly (0-0-1), C Begley, T Kennelly (0-0-1), L Glynn (0-1-0), S McDonnell (0-2-2), S Cavanagh (0-1-4), B Brogan (1-1-0), T Walsh (0-1-1), M Clarke (0-0-1).
Interchange: D Goulding (0-1-0), J Kavanagh, P Keenan, K McKernan (0-1-0), B Murphy, M Murphy, E Bolton.
Australia: D Fletcher, P Duffield, J Frawley (0-1-0), K Simpson (0-0-1), B Gibbs (0-1-0), G Ibbotson, T Goldsack, M Boyd (0-0-1), D Swan, L Picken, A Goodes (0-4-0), J McVeigh, E Betts (0-2-0), J Riewoldt, B Green.
Interchange: D Cross (0-2-0), L Montagna (0-2-0), S Gilbert, K Jack, T Banfield (0-2-0), P Dangerfield.
Referees: D Coldrick (Ireland), B Rosebury (Australia).