Wales lost their first Test against Australia 27-19 despite a spirited second-half fightback in Brisbane.
Alex Cuthbert crossed for a try and Leigh Halfpenny kicked 14 points as the Six Nations champions threatened to pull off an historic win.
But it was not enough to recover from early scores by Scott Higginbotham and Will Genia before Pat McCabe crossed to snuff out the Welsh recovery.
Tri-Nations holders Australia recovered from their defeat to Scotland to end Wales' run of six wins in a row and leave caretaker-coach Rob Howley facing an uphill task for the rest of the three-Test series.
Howley said: "We showed great character and spirit in the second half to bring the game back to 20-19, but it is all about being clinical.
"All the chances we created in the second half, compared to the first half performance, caused Australia some problems. But we just didn't take enough of our opportunities.
"In the first half the speed and intensity of the game was at a level we hadn't played at for some time. We struggled with the pace of the game."
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said: "We are very proud of the players' response not only from the start, but especially at 20-19. It has been a huge effort and they got the job done."
Man of the match Genia added: "We spoke about character in the preparation. We knew what we were capable of doing, and how to put it into practice, and that's what we did."