In this Group D game, Denmark had controlled possession but failed to take advantage of any of its opportunities throughout the tight, scoreless first half.
Every ball, every shot on goal, every pause in play seemed to be fraught with tension, which increased at the start of the second half when word spread that Tunisia had gotten on the board against France in the other Group D match.
The Carthage Eagles would have advanced to the round of 16 had Tunisia won, Australia and Denmark played to a scoreless tie, and Tunisia had won.
Four minutes later, with their chances of making the World Cup on the line, the Socceroos launched a counterattack from their own penalty area, and Riley McGree expertly timed a run to find Leckie.
When Leckie dribbled past two Danish players and slid the ball past Kasper Schmeichel into the goal, his squad erupted in jubilant delight.
Australia held on in a tight finish to advance to the round of 16 and win back-to-back World Cup games for the first time in its history despite continuous pressure from Denmark.
Leckie enjoys himself after scoring the winning goal.
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images, Serhat Cagdas
Australia had a remote chance of making it to the knockout rounds after beating Tunisia on Saturday, and Denmark, despite its lackluster World Cup debut, might have also advanced in this winner-takes-all game.
In the opening ten minutes, Denmark played with the urgency of a team that needed to win, controlling the early possession and forcing Australia’s Mathew Ryan into two saves, though neither appeared to concern him much.
Christian Eriksen’s long passes down the left side found plenty of space as Denmark kept up the pressure, trapping Australia inside its own half.
But every opportunity was wasted, as the score remained 0-0 at halftime.
As the game remained deadlocked throughout the second half, tension-filled spectators sat in the stands, somber and hardly singing.
Following Leckie’s goal, Wahbi Khazri’s goal for Tunisia in the other Group D game turned the group on its head twice in the span of five minutes.
Despite defeating France, Tunisia did not advance.
Photographs by Alex Livesey/Danehouse/Getty
A few minutes later, there was further suspense when the referee gave Denmark a penalty for a foul on Kasper Dolberg, but it was reversed because of an offside, and Australia finished off the game to win.
Tunisia, meantime, overcame the reigning champion France 1-0 but was unable to advance to the knockout rounds.
Prior to playing Tunisia, Les Bleus had already qualified and rested some of their key players.