Australia returned to form with a 20-14 victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday which also saw them end their lengthy wait for a Test try.
England's defeat could prove especially painful for the 2015 World Cup hosts, as it may cost them a top seeding at next month's draw for the global showpiece.
The Wallabies, unrecognisable from the side thrashed 33-6 by France in Paris last week and with their scrum vastly improved, were unfortunate to be 14-11 down at the break.
England held a slender interval advantage thanks to three Toby Flood penalties and a controversial try from Manu Tuilagi.
Tuilagi's score cancelled out a deserved try by Wallaby wing Nick Cummins -- his first in Tests and Australia's first in 212 minutes of international rugby.
Recalled full-back Berrick Barnes, who also kicked astutely out of hand, then nudged Australia six points in front early in the second half.
And the Wallabies held on for a win that eased the pressure on their under-fire Kiwi coach Robbie Deans as they regained the Cook Cup after two successive defeats by England.
Delighted Australia captain Nathan Sharpe told the BBC: "We spoke about character and resolve after the France loss. We had something to prove tonight -- our effort was outstanding.
"We made plenty of turnovers, got good set-piece possession and our scrum was outstanding -- that's what won us the game," he added after an injury-hit Australia denied England any points at all in the second half.
England's handling errors against an Australia side who bossed the breakdown cost them dear as did their decision to run two kickable, second-half penalties.
"We weren't clinical enough and some great chances went begging," said England captain Chris Robshaw.
"We need to be clinical when you play the best teams -- if you get one chance you have to take it," the flanker added.
England recalled Chris Ashton after the wing missed last week's 54-12 win over Fiji through suspension.
By contrast, Australia made four changes to their Paris team, with Barnes, wing Digby Ioane, lock Sekope Kepu and tighthead prop Ben Alexander recalled.
Flood's early penalty gave England the lead but it was Australia who dominated territory with a surge by openside flanker Michael Hooper taking the Wallabies into the hosts' 22.
Man-of-the-match Hooper found Cummins, who was held up short of the line.
But after the ball was once more re-cycled from a ruck, Barnes kicked a close-range drop-goal to level the scores before Flood landed another penalty.
Australia again came close to a try in the 29th minute after the ball was thrown to Hooper at the back of the line-out on the edge of the 22.
Alexander, after a series of rucks, thought he'd scored but French referee Romain Poite went to the replay official and Scotland's Jim Yuille ruled 'no-try', with the ball obscured beneath a pile of bodies.
Barnes and Flood's exchanged penalties to leave England 9-6 in front before the try Australia had been threatening arrived in the 35th minute.
Scrum-half Nick Phipps's break caught the England defence napping and his pass, which appeared forward, sent Cummins clear for a try in the right corner. Barnes missed the conversion but Australia were 11-6 in front.
However, England hit back minutes later when, after scrum-half Danny Care's quick tap penalty, centre Brad Barritt and blindside flanker Tom Johnson combined to give Tuilagi a 30 metre run to the line.
Tuilagi was tackled short and stretched to ground the ball. Poite again called on Yuille and he ruled Tuilagi had made it even though it seemed he'd fallen short of the line.
Flood missed the conversion but England, luckily, were three points ahead.
However, three early second half Barnes penalties, saw the Wallabies go 20-14 in front.
Replacement England forwards Joe Launchbury and Mako Vunipola then combined well to at last release Ashton only for the wing to be hauled down a yard short.
Barnes then saw a 50 metre penalty fall short but Australia had done enough.