England showed resolve to weather a second-half storm from Australia to clinch a 25-17 victory at Suncorp Stadium that takes their series to a decider in Sydney next Saturday.
An early try from Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell’s kicking helped Eddie Jones’ tourists into a 17-0 lead at a venue where the Wallabies have won their last 10 Tests dating back to 2016.
It was England’s most complete half of rugby since the 2019 World Cup and it came out of nowhere after a run of four defeats appeared to reflect a team lacking identity or direction.
Jones arrived at a venue where he has never lost as an international coach, including during his time with Australia, with a crosshair on his back and for 36 minutes his magic touch had returned.
But England’s foundations shook from the moment Taniela Tupou forced his way over and when Samu Kerevi touched down, the game was blown wide open as 17-0 became 22-17.
Momentum was behind the Wallabies as both teams lost players to injury at an alarming rate – Maro Itoje and Sam Underhill were forced off for Jones’ men – but time and again an error stalled the fightback.
Eventually they ran out of steam and England had the resilience to finish the job with a sixth penalty from man of the match Farrell restoring the buffer zone needed to set up a winner takes all clash.
The build up to that clash will be about patching together battered playing squads, but Jones will also have plenty of highlights to pour over next week as England started like a freight train.
In the opening five minutes there were wins across the field, most crucially a try for Vunipola from a slickly-worked line-out move.
The tone had been set by Ellis Genge in the opening seconds when he ran through Michael Hooper and full-back Jordan Petaia departed with concussion to escalate the Wallabies’ problems.
Farrell added two penalties to his conversion to extend England’s lead to 13-0 but there were tense moments when referee Andrew Brace examined replays of Genge roughing up Nic White on the floor before opting against a card.
Izaia Perese had come on as Petaia’s replacement but he was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on and once more Farrell was on target, although Australia were lucky they did not concede a penalty try.
England continued to dominate, taking the Wallabies apart up-front and pouring through gaps, while their kicking game was far more evident than in the first Test.
It was hard to see a way back for Australia when Farrell rounded off another spell of total control with his fourth penalty, but a powerful scrum ignited their attack and a first visit to the 22 of the match ended with a try for Tupou.
A further setback came when Itoje departed following a heavy collision with Noah Lolesio and Perese was next to add to the body count when he left the pitch with a knee injury.
Just as Farrell appeared to have settled England with three points, a dropped restart by Ollie Chessum allowed Australia to build pressure and once Tupou had almost gone over Kerevi arrived to finish the job.
Marcus Smith was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, Lolesio was on target from the kicking tee and suddenly Jones’ side’s lead had been cut to 22-17.
England launched an attack but it lacked the conviction evident earlier and they were soon pinned back in their own 22 following brilliant counter play by wing Tom Wright.
Errors were costing the Wallabies and when Jack Nowell launched a tackle-busting run the tide turned, Farrell was on hand to finish the job.