Melvyn Jaminet kicked 23 points as France recorded a first win over the Wallabies in Australia in 31 years in Melbourne.
The Perpignan full-back, who has not yet played top-flight rugby, kicked seven penalties and a conversion in a 28-26 victory.
It was the perfect response to last week’s heart-breaking defeat in Brisbane, when France led with 80 minutes gone, only to concede a penalty in the final play.
The teams will now face off in a decider in Brisbane on Saturday where Les Bleus will look to seal a series win.
As had been the case a week ago, France led for much of the game, but a late Michael Hooper try, followed by a Noah Lolesio penalty put the Wallabies in front for the first time with six minutes remaining.
France lost lock Kilian Géraci at the same time to injury, forcing them to play the last few minutes with seven forwards and eight backs, but despite that, a huge scrum won them a crucial penalty that allowed them to retake the lead and see the game out.
Skipper Anthony Jelonch said: “Before the final scrum, when the referee blew the whistle, I looked at the faces of my teammates and I saw they were all desperate to win that scrum. With those looks, I knew we would win it.
“There was Jo Danty who came and helped us with his big arms, thanks also to Melvyn (Jaminet) who scored all those points and thanks to all my teammates. I’m proud of the team. We made up for last Wednesday, I’m really happy this evening.
“We will see how we recover over the next four days. It will be up the to the coaching staff to decide (on the team for Saturday), but we’ll be ready to fight.”
France started well, with Jaminet slotting two early penalties, while Australia had a Marika Koroibete try ruled out for an earlier knock-on.
The winger was denied again because of a forward pass, but Lolesio knocked over an easy penalty to make it 6-3.
France struck with the first try of the game on 22 minutes, Arthur Vincent releasing Damian Penaud after a loose pass in midfield. The winger raced down the right, exchanged passes with Cameron Woki and then sprinted home.
With Jaminet’s conversion, France led 13-3, before Lolesio and Jaminet exchanged penalties.
Jake Gordon’s try on the stroke of half-time meant that the visitors went in 16-13 ahead, and Australia moved level immediately after the break.
However two more penalties from Jaminet, the second after Romain Taofifenua had knocked on while reaching over the line, allowed France to move clear again.
He added another to make it 25-16, but Hooper’s try and Lolesio’s penalty brought back memories of last week’s collapse.
There was to be no repeat of that disappointment however, Demba Bamba putting in a huge shove on the crucial final scrum, and Jaminet holding his nerve.
Sekou Macalou then produced a turnover in the final minute, a fitting end considering the way France’s breakdown work allowed them to slow the Wallabies attack.