England lost their grip on the Cook Cup this afternoon when they paid the price for some inept execution and too much poor decision-making.
Stuart Lancaster’s side dominated for much of the second period at Twickenham as the desperate Wallabies - thrashed in Paris last week - tried hanging on to a 20-14 lead.
However, despite the probings of Toby Flood they could not convert their ample pressure into points.
Early on, there had been none of the expected English dominance in the scrum, where the visitors fared well and subsequently earned plenty of territory.
The hosts did defend with real vigour although they were fortunate when video referee Jim Yuille ruled out an effort from prop Ben Alexander who seemed to have rumbled over on the half hour.
Australia were desperately hoping to avoid a third successive try-less performance, something they had not endured since the 19th century.
That drought finally came to an end, though, when winger Nick Cummins was put clear by scrum-half Nick Phipps on the half hour and he finished smartly, although the final pass was clearly forward.
England responded well, however, nudging ahead just before the break courtesy of a debatable try from Manu Tuilagi who did brilliantly to get to the corner after Danny Care’s quick tap penalty but left doubts about his grounding.
Wallaby full-back Berrick Barnes levelled soon after the restart with his second penalty having opened Australia’s scoring with a drop goal.
When he added his fourth in the 54th minute they forged that six point lead.
The Red Rose rallied. Chris Ashton was sliced down just short then Thomas Waldron twisted over from a line-out but failed to gain clean grounding.
Australia continued to scramble but they were aided by England who failed to show enough composure when it came to the crucial latter stages.
Ben Youngs took a quick tap which amounted to nothing, then he needlessly fumbled while plenty of colleagues lost their nerve, leaving a huge turnaround needed for the visit of South Africa in a week’s time.
England: Goode; Ashton, Tuilagi, Barritt (Farrell 74), Sharples (Brown 60) Flood, Care (B Youngs 60); Marler (Wood 50), T Youngs (Paice 74), Cole, Palmer (Launchbury 54), Parling, Johnson (Vunipola 50) Robshaw, Waldron.
Australia: Barnes; Cummins, Ashley-Cooper, Tapuai, Ioane (Mitchell 70); Beale, Phipps; Robinson, Polota-Nau (Moore 40) Alexander (Kepu 71), Timani, Sharpe, Dennis (Gill 77), Hooper, Palu.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)