After weathering a determined early surge from the Iraqis, who had the best two chances of the first half, Australia sealed the points thanks to a 47th minute header from captain Harry Kewell.

The Socceroos now have seven points in the group and a win against Iraq in Dubai next week will all but seal a top two spot and progression to the final round of qualifying.

Iraq started with all guns blazing and were unlucky not to be ahead within five minutes after Mark Schwarzer could only parry a fierce shot and Emad Rida hit the underside of the bar with his follow-up effort.

Mark Bresciano and Kewell could have both put Australia in front inside the first 20 minutes. Bresciano's well hit right-footer was knocked away by Noor Sabri Abbas in the Iraqi goal while Kewell's chance came when David Carney, with acres space down the left, delivered a pin-point cross, but Abbas was again up to the shot, knocking the header to safety.

The frantic pace of the game was causing trouble for both defences both Ali Hussein Rahema and Haider Hussain were tempted into a foolish challenges which saw them booked within the first 22 minutes.

On 26 minutes, Rida missed another excellent chance after being put through one on one with Schwarzer, with the keeper doing well to parry a low shot away. Younes Mahmoud then should have done better with his free header, gently pushing it wide from close range.

Kewell's claims for a penalty were denied late in a half, which while thoroughly entertaining, ended scoreless.

The Australians didn't have to wait long to break the deadlock. On 47 minutes, Brett Emerton's cross from the right found Kewell in front of his opponent and the skipper steered his header into the net.

Vinnie Grella was booked, while Mark Bresciano was replaced by Carl Valeri, and Scott McDonald by Brett Holman as Pim Verbeek looked to control the tempo of the game.

Kewell could have sealed the game on 65 minutes, but despite an excellent pass from Wilkshire, the Australian captain could only poke it wide. Meanwhile, Rida's night of profligacy continued, again finding himself alone in the box, and again unable to find the net, much to the frustration of his teammates.

Kewell departed for Bruce Djite with 15 minutes left, but it was up the other end where the action occurred late on with Hawar Mulla Mohammad getting clear but Schwarzer again did the job with an excellent save.