The top-ranked Kookaburras have suffered a 2-0 defeat to world number two Argentina in their second game showdown at the Darwin International Hockey Open (DIHO) on Wednesday night.
The 2016 Rio Olympic gold medallists struck twice late in the third quarter to stun world number one Australia at Marrara Hockey Centre.
Maico Casella fired a drag flick into the backboard from a penalty corner in the 44th minute, before Agustin Mazzilli rocketed a shot past Andrew Charter.
The Kookaburras, who defeated Malaysia 5-2 on Tuesday, had beaten Argentina 1-0 in a DIHO warm-up game at the same venue on Sunday.
Both sides remain in pole position to qualify for Sunday’s final, but Australia will now need to beat Japan in their final round robin game on Friday to be guaranteed of a spot in the decider.
Japan, who lost 2-1 to Argentina on Tuesday, drew 3-3 with Malaysia in the earlier game on Wednesday.
Kookaburras coach Colin Batch: “There were parts of our game today that was the best we’ve had since we’ve been away, but we had a bad lapse in that third term.
“Argentina defended very well. We couldn’t find a way through their defensive structure.”
Casella tested Lovell from a drag flick, while Jack Welch was off target after good lead-up play by Dylan Wotherspoon before the opening break.
The second period was a tighter affair with fewer chances although Darwin product Jeremy Hayward forced opposition goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi into a good block from a short corner.
Argentina begun to get on top in the third with Kookaburras second-half keeper Andrew Charter denying Mazzilli in the 39thminute.
Five minutes later, Argentina were ahead when Casella slotted his powerful drag flick past Charter.
With less than 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Mazzilli doubled the pain with a stunning hit past Charter to make it 2-0.
Australia huffed and puffed in the last but couldn’t come up with a goal, with Flynn Ogilvie pushing a chance wide.
Argentina 2 (Casella 44’, Mazzilli 45’)