The Lions will tackle Australia in a winner-takes-all test series finale in Sydney next Sydney after a dramatic 16-15 win for the home side in Melbourne.
Adam Ashley-Cooper scored a 75th minute try for the Aussies and Christian Leailifano converted to put the Wallabies ahead by just a point.
The Lions, on the back foot for much of the second-half in Sydney after taking a one game lead in Brisbane last week, then had one last chance to take the victory and the series when awarded an 80th minute penalty.
But just as Australia’s Kurtley Beale came up short with a last gasp penalty in the opening match, so Leigh Halfpenny saw his potential match winning kick fall short.
The result was no more than the Australians deserved after recovering from last week’s defeat in some style.
They also fought back after going in 12-9 down at the interval as Halfpenny and Leailifano kicked all the first-half points.
The Wallabies upped the ante when it mattered after the break and not even another Halfpenny penalty, in the 63rd minute could dampen their spirits.
They got their reward when James O’Connor drifted across the Lions defence and Ashley-Cooper crossed for the all-important try.
Irish centre Brian O’Driscoll finished the game as Lions captain after Sam Warburton ended up injured and admitted to a real sense of disappointment with the result.
He said: “We’re very disappointed, we weren’t on control of the game but we were six points clear, that’s a horrible margin as after a converted try you’re behind.
“I had one loose kick that gave them a counter-attack option, but we weren’t able to close it out. But it’s not over, we’ve got a massive week to get ourselves ready for Sydney next Saturday.
“The momentum is with them, but we won’t let that faze us. We’ve beaten them once.”
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore