China entered the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup final after edging hosts Australia 61-59 in the semifinals in Sydney on Friday.
Wang Siyu made a pair of free throws with 3.4 seconds remaining to move China two points ahead, while Ezi Magbegor failed to convert a layup at the other end.
Wang finished with 14 points. Center Han Xu registered a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds. Yang Liwei chipped in 18 points.
It will be the first final appearance for China at the quadrennial tournament since they won the silver medal at the formerly known FIBA World Championship for Women in 1994.
Australia came into the duel as Group B leader before a quarterfinal victory over Belgium, while China was given growing anticipation after only losing to the United States in group play and taking down the Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist France in the quarterfinal.
Without their leading scorer Li Meng, who averaged 16 points in the past six games, China met a bit of trouble in offense after the tip-off, as Australia came through a defense-oriented first quarter leading 17-13 through two late free throws from veteran center Lauren Jackson.
Coming into the game as a substitute, Han grabbed the spotlight on the court, scoring 13 points in the second quarter as China outscored Australia 23-13 down the stretch to set up a six-point cushion at halftime.
The second half was fiercely contested until the final second, as Han continued her favorable form in the paint and Wang made two foul shots in clutch time.
The last quarter witnessed four lead changes and nine times tied before China secured a narrow victory over Australia.
"We met some difficulties today given one of our main scorers missed the game due to an illness, which had a big impact on the team. But we were not intimidated and still stuck to our strategy, and we played great," said China's head coach Zheng Wei.
"One player was absent, but more players stood out. Everyone played to their utmost, no matter mentally or tactically. I really feel proud of them."
Samantha Whitcomb accumulated 15 points for Australia, while Steph Talbot and Magbegor helped with 12 points apiece.
Australia's head coach Sandy Brondello said the team is "obviously disappointed."
"You get this far; you want to try and get to the gold medal game, but proud of our effort and congratulations to China. They really ground it out tonight."
"Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck, and we didn't shoot the ball well. So we just got to try and regroup now. Hopefully, we'll get that bronze medal," Brondello added.
China will contend for the title with defending champion the United States on Saturday. China lost 77-63 in their head-to-head in the group phase.
"The United States put us under a lot of pressure defensively in that game. Maybe we can handle the pressure better for the second time. We need to do better in ball possession tomorrow," said Zheng, who also thanked for the great "encouragement and energy" given by the spectators.
"It feels like playing at home. Fans gave us great energy, which played a very important role in our performances in this tournament. I hope they will continue to cheer for us tomorrow," she said.