Australia's tour of Europe got off to a stuttering start as they felt the full force of dazzling France at Marseille's Stade Velodrome.
The Wallabies' stock in world rugby has plummeted following their disappointing Tri-Nations campaign this summer and they suffered at the hands of the French, whose combination of breathtaking back-play and power in the pack proved too much for their opponents.
Led by the impish half-back pairing of Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Frederic Michalak, Les Bleus scored two tries - through Cedric Haymans and Remy Martin - and displayed an unswerving work ethic in defence to restrict Australia to just three penalties from the boot of Mat Rogers and a last-gasp touchdown by substitute Drew Mitchell.
France, who went into the interval with just a one-point advantage at 10-9 could even cope with forced withdrawal of Michalak through injury at the start of the second half as Elissalde took over kicking duties to bag himself 11 points.
The result means Australia have lost their last six internationals, while for George Gregan, the veteran scrum-half, it was a disappointing way to celebrate a record-breaking 115th Test appearance.
A sumptuous passage of play involving Toulouse quartet Michalak, Yannick Jauzion, Cedric Heymans and Yannick Nyanga was an early sign of things to come for Australia as France demonstrated a willingness to run at their opponents from anywhere.
Michalak booted over his side's first points with a penalty in the eighth minute but the Wallabies restored parity through Rogers' three-pointer six minutes later.
The mercurial Michalak was wayward with a straightforward penalty moments later before a Nyanga try in the right corner was disallowed after the rampaging flanker was adjudged to have been offside when Elissalde fired over a bomb to the wing.
France were the more dangerous in the opening 20 minutes and it came as no surprise when they went over for the first try in the 25th minute.
It owed much to guile and fleet of foot of Michalak, whose jinking run was ended five yards out. The ball was slow to be recycled but Elissalde found Heymans cutting in and the winger galloped over beneath the posts.
The conversion was added but the deficit was reduced immediately through Rogers' second penalty.
A third soon followed on the stroke of half-time to make it 10-9, although Australia may have been hoping for more a minute earlier when Morgan Turinui and Rogers linked well on the left before the move was brought to a shuddering halt by France centre Florian Fritz.
The lively Rogers again came close to going over at the start of second half after a bullocking charge but with the French defence in disarray as a result, Brendan Cannon knocked on just five yards out.
Michalak, who had been a thorn in Australia's side in the first half, was forced off with a shoulder injury in the 46th minute after he felt the full force of a crunching Mark Chisholm hit.
Castres' Yann Delaigue was drafted on as his replacement but it did not disrupt Les Bleus' rhythm as they increased their lead, first via Elissalde's penalty and then through Martin's try in the 51st minute.
The Stade Francais flanker charged down a Matt Giteau kick before Fritz was dragged down a yard out after chasing the loose ball.
Martin followed up, however, to gather and ground in one movement, with Elissalde providing the conversion.
Elissalde made it 23-9 on the hour mark with a superbly struck penalty from the right touchline and another in the 72nd minute added gloss to the scoreline.
Substitute Mitchell's converted injury-time try following good work by full-back Chris Latham blotted France's copybook but the win for the hosts was never in doubt.