The hopes and dreams of a sporting-mad nation came crashing down on Sunday evening as a fallen giant of the game succumbed to a devastating defeat.
Pending seemingly unfathomable results from Fiji, the Wallabies are set to bow out at the pool stage for the time in history while Wales have booked their spot in the quarter-finals.
This might be the darkest night in Australian rugby history. The sun will come up in the morning, but the pain and disappointment of a pool stage exit may never go away.
For every Wallabies supporter who dared to dream at OL Stadium, there were at least 10 Welsh supporters. Warren Gatland’s men were spurred on by a Cardiff-like atmosphere here in France.
The crowd let out a deafening cheer as flyhalf Ben Donaldson prepared to kick off the test. There was so much riding on this clash, and finally, the moment of truth awaited the two nations.
But Australia couldn’t have started any worse. The Wallabies gave away a penalty after just 14 seconds and conceded the opening try of the night just a few minutes later.
Halfback Gareth Davis finished off a tidy set-piece play from the Welsh, and playmaker Dan Biggar added the extras to give the northern hemisphere side a 7-nil advantage.
Australia had a golden chance to hit back shortly after with towering lock Richie Arnold breaking through the Welsh defensive wall. But Arnold’s effort was in vain.
The Wallabies didn’t trouble the Welsh try line again and could only manage to score in threes with Ben Donaldson converting two penalties in five minutes.
Almost suddenly, the Aussies had reduced the deficit to a single point – and for those wearing gold in the crowd, they’d well and truly found their voice by this stage.
As Australia began to claw their way back into the contest, Wales were dealt a cruel injury as Dan Biggar left the field. New Zealand-born No. 10 Gareth Anscombe came on as a replacement in just the 12th minute.
Anscombe struck the right post with his first shot at goal but made amends just a couple of minutes later to give Cymru a 10-6 lead.
Silly errors continued to cost the Wallabies, and Wales made them pay with Anscombe converting another two penalties before the end of the half.
The mostly Welsh crowd let out another cheer as Wales went into the half-time sheds with a somewhat commanding 16-6 lead. It was their game for the taking.