The Wallabies, still smarting from losing a World Cup final against England in their own back yard four years ago, are hell-bent on exacting revenge.
Wilkinson, whose dramatic late drop-goal swayed a gripping Sydney showdown England's way, will be among a handful of red rose survivors from that unforgettable November night likely to start in Marseille next Saturday.
World Cup history is littered with titanic struggles between two of the sport's most bitter enemies.
Australia won the 1991 final at Twickenham, then England ended their reign as champions in Cape Town four years later before Wilkinson and company struck gold by breaking Wallaby hearts amid scenes of excruciating mental pain for the 2003 host nation.
Marseille's Stade Velodrome, a steepling amphitheatre on the southern French coast, now awaits another gladiatorial fight to the death.
But the very fact that England have extended their hold on the Webb Ellis Trophy into another week is an achievement in itself.
Teetering on the brink of elimination following a World Cup record 36-0 defeat to South Africa a fortnight ago, bonus-point victories over Samoa and Tonga have breathed new life into England's campaign.
The Polynesian double-header, labelled cup finals by England head coach Brian Ashton, saw his team score 80 points and eight tries, with Wilkinson booting exactly half of them to move just five behind all-time record World Cup points scorer Gavin Hastings.
Had Tonga triumphed at Parc des Princes last night, England would have made an ignominious exit as the first Rugby World Cup holders not to reach the quarter-finals.
But wing Paul Sackey's second successive try double, plus touchdowns from Mathew Tait and Andy Farrell - his first Test score since switching codes - saw England home 36-20.
Wilkinson admitted: "I think a couple of weeks ago it was looking pretty tough for us in the pool phase.
"We had two games to go and two games to win against guys clearly showing they could play some serious rugby, so to come here and win, we are over the moon with that.
"They (Australia) have the best record in World Cups.
"They show more than anyone that they can do it when it counts, and they have got the players and everything you need for a world-class team."
England unquestionably head to Marseille as underdogs, although playmaker in chief Wilkinson's presence will put the Wallabies on red alert.
In contrast, Australia know they are without the injured Stephen Larkham, his opposite number four years ago, suggesting England could have a genuine chance should their performance level peak.
Wilkinson added: "I don't think that any team going to the quarter-finals of this World Cup right now can doubt they need to be at the very top of their game.
"You need to turn up on the day and make very few mistakes.
"You need to make big decisions. You need to go in there and play with courage and take risks, not try to sneak through, but go out there and try to win."
England's World Cup captain Phil Vickery, who returned from a two-match ban to play the final 20 minutes against Tonga, claims the Australia tie is a deserved reward for an impressive recovery since South Africa left their calling card.
Vickery said: "We will go into the game as underdogs, which is a good thing.
"Take nothing away from South Africa, they played really well, but I think it was just the manner of the defeat. We couldn't really take anything from the game.
"It was such a bad performance - deeply disappointing. As a group of players, you have to take responsibility.
"It was unacceptable, and we have taken a lot of criticism for it, rightly so.
"It has been a tough couple of weeks, and the boys have had to dig in and dig deep. We deserve our chance now to have a go at Australia.
"They are a very difficult team to beat, but anything is possible when it comes to the quarter-final stage.
"We will have to raise our game another couple of levels if we are going to compete with those guys. It is going to be a high-pressure game between two teams who desperately want to win."
England appeared to come through an inevitably punishing contest against Tonga without major injury dramas, although flanker Lewis Moody twice took heavy blows that could require monitoring during the next 24 hours.
Martin Corry, who led England to their face-saving double Pool A success, added: "We are still playing below our potential. We don't know how good we can be.
"From where we were two weeks ago, we have improved dramatically across the board.
"We have had some pretty serious character tests. What has delighted me is how we have put our heads down."