PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil - The Netherlands is on the verge of qualifying for the World Cup knockout rounds after fending off a belligerent Australia 3-2 on Wednesday to follow up its opening 5-1 rout of defending champion Spain.
Memphis Depay scored the clincher in the 68th minute, seconds after Australia missed a chance to go ahead again.
Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie, who each scored twice against Spain, added to their tournament tallies before and after Australia's goals, which included a stunning volley from Cahill that leveled the score at 1-1 in the 21st.
Australia is almost certainly out of contention following consecutive defeats, and Cahill will be missing in its last match against Spain after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament. Van Persie will miss theNetherlands last group match against Chile for the same reason.
"They just kept running. They actually scored well. The second half we went to our own system, what we're used to," Van Persie said. "But everyone did well. I'm really happy with the result."
After a quiet start, the game burst into life in the 20th minute when Robben collected the ball near halfway, sped through a gaping hole in the Australian midfield and shot powerfully past the outstretched left foot of Maty Ryan.
Another rout seemed in the works, but only for only a matter seconds. Australia equalized with Ryan McGowan sending a long, looping pass from the midfield to Cahill, who volleyed over Jasper Cillessen onto the underside of the bar in one of the best goals of the tournament so far.
Australia, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, kept pressuring Netherlands, with Mark Bresciano and Matthew Spiranovic missing chances that could have given the Socceroos a halftime lead.
Just before the interval, Cahill needlessly clattered into the back of Bruno Martins Indi and was given a yellow card. He was also booked in Australia's opening 3-1 loss to Chile, meaning the veteran Socceroos star may have played his last World Cup game. Martins Indi was helped off the field, replaced by Depay to start the second half, and later taken to a hospital with a suspected concussion.
At the start of the second half, Netherlands changed from a 5-3-2 system that worked so well against Spain to a more traditional Dutch 4-3-3 style to incorporate Depay, but it was Australia which took the surprise lead with a penalty after Daryl Janmaat handled the ball in the area.
Mile Jedinak converted from the spot in the 54th to make it 2-1 but Van Persie leveled again four minutes later, collecting the ball in space on the edge of the penalty area and firing into the roof of the net.
In the 68th minute, Tommy Oar had a shooting opportunity down on the left hand side of goal but chose to cross to Mathew Leckie, who couldn't beat the keeper.
It proved costly on the next attacking play when Depay fired a swerving low shot from around 25 yards that beat the keeper's outstretched right hand,.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said he was "heartbroken" by the loss.
"Bitterly disappointing," he said. "Just for the players, they were magnificent. They took it to a world-class team. Full credit to them, but I just feel bitterly disappointed they weren't able to get some reward out of it today."
Postecoglou said his team had proved some critics wrong with two gallant games.
"We came to this World Cup and we're playing against three of the best nations in the world," he said. "People were saying we wouldn't score a goal. In both games we've taken it to the opposition."