By Sarah Young
LONDON (Reuters) - Australia survived a heart-stopping extra time period against China to win on penalties while Hungary also moved into the women's Olympic semi-finals on Sunday by saving a last-gasp Russian penalty.
The 20-18 victory meant that 2008 bronze medallists Australia maintained their unbeaten run, the eventual victors taking the lead in extra time and then conceding before hitting the crossbar with two seconds to go.
The tussle went to penalties, which they won 4-2, only for the emotions to surface.
"I'm still a little bit teary. It was one of the most intense games I've ever played," said Australia's Glencora Ralph, who scored in the penalty shoot-out.
Ralph was not the only one with tears in her eyes as several of the defeated Chinese players broke down after the dramatic match, accompanied by the sound of huge roars from the crowd clad in the gold and green of Australia's sports teams.
"I'm very relieved. Those quarter-finals are really tough games. There's so much riding on it," said Australian coach Greg McFadden.
"You go to play for the medals which we've all been training for, some four years, some eight years, some twelve years, and now we're in with a chance to win a medal."
McFadden praised the heart shown by the team, especially with the exclusion of key players like captain Kate Gynther for more than three major fouls.
"We're Australian. We're all proud to represent our country. We're never going to die wondering," he said.
Hungary's 11-10 defeat of Russia meant the women's campaign to win their first Olympic medal in water polo stayed on track.
While the Hungarian men are the most successful Olympic water polo team, the women have never made it to the podium in the event's 12-year existence, narrowly missing out on the bronze in 2008.
"They are water polo players who have grown up in Hungary, home of the greatest, where even the water coming from the showers brings all knowledge, tricks and braveness of the past," said jubilant Hungary coach Andras Meresz.
"This courage was the key to reach the semi-final."
The Hungarians, whose games attract an army of fans from the water polo-mad nation, were level after the third quarter before edging into a lead which they barely clung on to, saving a penalty with five seconds left.
Australia and Hungary's opponents in the semi-finals will be decided by the outcome of the remaining games on Sunday, with the U.S. taking on Italy and host nation Britain playing Spain.