The Wallabies needed 10 points in the final 10 minutes to beat a stubborn Italian side 30-20 in Padova.
The Azzurri led 14-11 after a try by Stade Francais wing Mirco Bergamasco on the half hour, but Australia hit back to level at 14-14 at the break.
With replacement outside half Matt Giteau in fine kicking form - he came on after only 14 minutes for Berwick Barnes and ended the game with 17 points- the Aussie recovery gathered momentum as two more penalties took them to 20-14.
But the home side closed the gap to 20-20 with 10 minutes remaining, only to see full back Adam Ashley-Cooper break their hearts with a try which Giteau converted.
Giteau had the last word with his fifth penalty of the game two minutes from time.