The powerhouse US women's basketball team fought off a strong challenge by rivals Australia to win their London Olympics semi-final 86-73, which put them in position to win a fifth consecutive gold medal.

The victory also extended the US team's Olympic winning streak to 40 games, a run stretching back to 1992 in Barcelona when they won the bronze.

Australia led by seven points during the second quarter and by four at halftime before the Americans finished the third quarter on a 10-3 run to take a 65-59 lead.

The Americans picked up where they left off and outscored Australia 8-3 at the start of the fourth quarter to build an 11-point lead.

The US women will face France, while Australia will play Russia for the bronze medal on Saturday.

Diana Taurasi and Tina Charles shared scoring honours for the Americans with 14 points, while Sue Bird added 13.

Center Liz Cambage led Australia with 19 points, but was held scoreless in the second half, and Lauren Jackson posted 14 points.

France will play in the final of the women's basketball tournament for the first time after pulling away late on for a comfortable victory over Russia.

Making only their second Olympic appearance, France continued an impressive Games by knocking out a Russian team ranked joint-second in the world alongside Australia, who lost today's earlier semi-final to the United States.

France stormed into an early lead, and then held off several Russian rallies before dominating the final quarter.

Russia did not seem to know what had hit them early on as their opponents capitalised on early turnovers to race into a 10-1 lead, with Emilie Gomis collecting six points inside the opening three minutes.

Not for the first time in these Games, it needed the introduction of Becky Hammon from the bench to bring about a Russia revival, and the American-born guard reeled off seven quick points, hitting a three that made it 12-10 to France.

But they were still playing catch-up against the hot-shooting French, who led 24-15 at the end of the first after Edwige Lawson-Wade hit a three-pointer.

Lawson-Wade stretched the lead further with three-pointers early in the second, putting them up 34-21.

Gomis' lay-up had France up 36-23 with two minutes left in the half, but Hammon's three-point play sparked an 8-2 Russia run to close the half.

Russia started the second half on a charge, and when Natalya Vodopyanova hit a pair of free throws the gap was down to 42-40.

Gomis padded France's lead with a three and another from Celine Dumerc made it 48-42.

They led 52-45 on Lawson-Wade's free throws, but Marina Kuzina kept Russia alive, hitting a big three and then making it 53-50 with a jump-shot.

But Sandrine Gruda responded with a three-point play, and when Dumerc ended the third quarter with a huge three France led 59-51.

They continued to pull away in the fourth quarter, with a big three from Lawson-Wade making it 70-56 with a little over five minutes to go.

The big shots kept coming, with Gomis making it 78-60 with 2:10 left on the clock and Dumerc capping the win with a long three late on.

Lawson-Wade led France with 18 points while Gomis had 15, Gruda and Dumerc 11 each and Endene Miyem and Isabelle Yacoubou 10 apiece.

Russia got 13 points apiece from Hammon and Alena Danilochkina.