Australia survived a late scare when Mark Schwarzer brought down China's Quo Bo after a swift counter attack by the home side, three minutes from time.
The goalkeeper had been left exposed by his defence but challenged clumsily and though going for the ball certainly caused his opponent to come crashing down.
Schwarzer, however, dived to his left and saved with his feet from substitute Shao Jiayi.
Archie Thompson had to come off after only ten minutes and was replaced by Brett Holman.
China threatened early through Zhu Ting while David Carney's cross for Mark Bresciano was not enough to produce an opening goal in the 23rd minute but the latter saw the keeper save well.
The half time whistle came but Australia made no changes.
Six minutes from time Jiang Ning put a free kick in the path of Xiaoting who scooped it over the bar.
After Schwarzer turned from villain to hero inside a minute the Socceroos knew that was a huge let-off and a likely defining moment in the 2010 World Cup.
Zhu Ting could have given Australia some heartache in the 23rd minute after running onto a nice through ball from his captain, Zheng Zhi, but Schwarzer made sure he had his near post covered and the shot went wide from a difficult angle.
In the 36th Zheng Zhi himself got into the box offering only an easy shot for Schwarzer to claim.
A sharp turn in the box by Zhu Ting and a shot well over the bar was the best the China captain could manage in the 40th , while a free kick in the 42nd from Zhang Shuai allowed Han Peng to make a smart run into the box only to steer his shot wide.
Australia held China well and went into the break a very satisfying 0-0 with no sign of any tiredness.
After an hour's play Vince Grella struck from the edge of the box, following a Lucas Neil free kick, but his effort whistled wide of the left hand upright.
Luke Wilkshire needed attention after a jarring tackle from Sun Jihai, but he recovered after some treatment and Australia made no further replacements, though Jacob Burns was seen warming up in stoppage time but the fourth official got his number wrong and time ran out before he could get on the field.
Australia's next WCQ game is against play Iraq at home on June 2, and away on June 7, with June 14 Qatar away, and China at home on June 22. Iraq and China, slugged out a 1-1 draw in Dubai.