At the foothills of the Magaliesburg mountain range and inside the marvellous, if uneven, saucer the Royal Bafokeng Stadium is, Australia's dreams nearly juddered to a halt.
And unless, the Socceroos, for whom finishing games with 11 men seems to be a struggle now, achieve what seems like mission impossible, Harry Kewell’s possibly finished with his World Cup career. After a long struggle with injury, it lasted all of 24 minutes this time.
Johnathan Mensah's shot hit Kewell's right arm while the Australia striker was on the goalline. Kewell, 32, seemed convinced he didn't deserve the red card, pointing his shoulder to the fourth official. He waited to see Asamoah Gyan convert his second successive penalty of the 2010 finals, before leaving brushing away the hand of a FIFA official.
This match had the frenzy of a friendly, far removed from the hectic activity around games in Johannesburg and Pretoria. The McDonald girls were missing and the crowd had to make do with the video of Shakira's waka waka. It also possibly had the maximum number of empty seats and, with one stand significantly higher than the other, looking at the mountains and the wide expanse of land on its right felt like being in an aeroplane. One which played vuvuzelas for channel music.
They were silenced briefly when Brett Holman made the most of another goalkeeping howler, this time from Ghana skipper Richard Kingson, tapping home as the Jabulani bounced off his chest when Marco Bresciano rifled a free-kick. The Australians started briskly and the goal was a result of the early domination.
Lucas Neill's super defending helped Australia protect their lead till the hand of Kewell happened. It took Australia a while to get their bearings right, playing with a man short but they put up a resolute show, hitting hard on the break in the second half. Scott Chipperfield's first touch could have resulted in a goal but he headed over and then Luke Wilkshire failed to beat Kingson. Joshua Kennedy's effort off the rebound was weak enough for Kingson to leap and grip.
At the other end, the veteran Mark Schwarzer kept Australia in the game, saving Quincy Owusu-Abeyie's left-foot curler and denying Kevin Prince-Boateng late in the first half. Early in the second half, he kept out a Gyan drive that seemed headed for the bottom corner.