Hrustic’s 84th-minute strike, which took a heavy deflection on its way into the net, came after Jackson Irvine had opened the scoring for the Socceroos in the 53rd minute of the overnight match at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Doha.
Irvine’s strike was almost immediately cancelled out by Caio Canedo’s equaliser for the UAE in the 57th minute but Graham Arnold’s men rallied to find the winner.
Australia will now face Peru in next week’s inter-continental play-off in Qatar, with the winner of that match moving on to November’s finals.
Despite Arnold’s pre-game insistence his team needed to bring out their nasty side, Australia were oddly passive in the opening half.
The Socceroos failed to muster a shot on target in a cagey display as lively winger Harib Abdalla tormented right-back Nathaniel Atkinson.
Abdalla twice ran free down the left in the opening half only to be denied both times by Socceroos goalkeeper Maty Ryan.
That pattern repeated early in the second half when Abdalla bolted free past Bailey Wright and Atkinson, only to again be thwarted by Ryan.
Irvine opened the scoring in the 53rd minute when Martin Boyle found space inside the box and crossed for the midfielder to sweep home from point-blank range.
Australia’s lead didn’t last long however, Canedo lashing home from the edge of the six-yard area after the Socceroos failed to deal with an Abdalla cross just four minutes later.
Craig Goodwin had a great opportunity to restore Australia’s lead in the 60th minute after he was found unmarked at the back post but the Adelaide United winger blazed his effort over the bar.
Substitute Jamie Maclaren also forced UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa into a sharp one-handed save in the 80th minute as Australia pressed for a late winner.
That winner came when Hrustic’s 84th-minute shot from the edge of the box took a heavy deflection off Ali Salmeen to leave Eisa stranded.
Meanwhile in cricket, Australia have dominated the opening Twenty20 against Sri Lanka with fast bowler Josh Hazlewood producing an electric spell of 4-16 and David Warner smashing 70 not out.
Hazlewood again showed why he is one of the world’s best white-ball bowlers, taking 4-16 as Sri Lanka collapsed from 1-100 to be all-out for 128 in Colombo.
The 31-year-old silenced a packed crowd at the R Premadasa Stadium on Tuesday night, running through Sri Lanka with a three-wicket burst in the 14th over as the hosts lost 4-3, and 9-28.
Openers David Warner (70*) and Aaron Finch (61*) backed up Hazlewood’s dominance, powering Australia to 0-101 in the 12th over before heavy rain set in to force players off the field for almost an hour.
After play resumed, Finch guided a six to third man for the winning runs as Australia passed Sri Lanka’s total with 36 balls to spare.
Australia and Sri Lanka will be back in action on tonight in Colombo, before the final T20 takes place in Kandy on Saturday.
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