Match ends, France 2, Australia 1.
Aziz Behich's late own goal broke Australian resistance as France started with a win in Group C and history was made with the World Cup's first VAR goal.
The video assistant referee penalised Australia's Josh Risdon for a sliding challenge on Antoine Griezmann, allowing the Atletico Madrid forward to dispatch a penalty, the first World Cup goal influenced by VAR.
However, after French defender Samuel Umtiti handled Aaron Mooy's free-kick, Australia equalised through Mile Jedinak's penalty in Kazan.
And they looked on course to hold one of the pre-tournament favourites until Paul Pogba's lobbed effort deflected off Australia full-back Behich and the crossbar to fall inches over the goalline.
Amid the large clusters of gold provided by around 10,000 Socceroos supporters, France initially assumed control of this Group C opener despite the long journey from their Moscow training base.
Kylian Mbappe sparkled early on, racing beyond the Australia backline to test goalkeeper Mat Ryan after 93 seconds.
That sparked a concerted offensive by Didier Deschamps' team but Australia stemmed the tide as the half progressed.
Going behind stirred Australia into a response in the second period and Aston Villa's Jedinak converted a penalty after Umtiti had senselessly handled another dangerous Mooy delivery.
But the late winner, confirmed by goalline technology, ensured France opened the tournament with three points.
Denmark beat Peru in Saturday's other Group C match.
Technology provided the talking points in an otherwise flat encounter that failed to inspire.
In a frenetic four minutes during the second half, which was totally out of keeping with the rest of the game, VAR was used twice to influence goals.
Risdon was the first player to be adversely affected with a penalty awarded a minute after the Australia full-back appeared to touch the ball onto Griezmann before the striker went down.
Bert van Marwijk's side then received a penalty of their own, with Umtiti's handball confirmed by Uruguayan referee Andres Cunha after it had been checked on VAR.
To round off proceedings, Pogba's deflected shot was given by goalline technology, with Australian goalkeeper Ryan pleading to play on.
France fail to fire
While all the pre-match talk was of France's much vaunted front three, Ousmane Dembele, Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe were largely ineffective.
Mbappe - the youngest Frenchman to play in a major tournament at 19 years and six months - offered the most danger but was contained by a well-drilled Australian defence, coupled with a plodding French midfield.
Griezmann did score from the penalty spot, but he looked a shadow of the player who scored seven times and provided two assists in his past two major tournaments.
Both he and Dembele were withdrawn after 70 minutes after largely anonymous displays.
Olivier Giroud, Griezmann's replacement, struggled to get involved but he crucially laid the ball into Pogba, advancing from midfield, for the winning goal.
Brave Australia worthy of a draw
Following the shock resignation of coach Ange Postecoglou in November, who said the job had taken its toll both "personally and professionally", Van Marwijk has had limited time to prepare.
However, while he has had just four friendlies in charge, his side looked well worthy of earning a creditable draw.
Australia are aiming to emulate their achievements in 2006, the only time they have previously qualified from the group stages in four appearances at the finals.
With Huddersfield's Mooy marshalling midfield alongside Jedinak, they were compact and well organised.
Mooy's deliveries also offered an attacking thrust and France goalkeeper Lloris saved well after a dangerous free-kick was flicked towards his own goal by France midfielder Corentin Tolisso.
While Australia may have only managed two victories in 14 fixtures at the World Cup, there was enough promise in this showing to suggest they can approach their next game against Denmark on Thursday with optimism.
Man of the match - Paul Pogba (France)
France don't lose when Griezmann scores - the stats
- This is the fourth successive World Cup that France have started the tournament unbeaten (W2 D2 L0), last losing in 2002 against Senegal.
- Australia have lost four of their five opening World Cup games, with their only win coming against Japan in 2006.
- France have only managed to keep one clean sheet in their past seven internationals, against Republic of Ireland in May.
- All four of Mat Ryan's saves against France came in the opening eight minutes, with the keeper conceding the next two shots on target faced.
- The two penalties scored in the game between France and Australia were only four minutes, seven seconds apart - the shortest period of time between two penalties being scored by different sides in a World Cup match.
- France v Australia became the first World Cup match since Senegal v Uruguay in World Cup 2002 to see both teams score a penalty in normal time.
- France are unbeaten in the 18 games in which Antoine Griezmann has scored (W16 D2 L0).
- The average age of France's starting XI (24y 196d) was their youngest in a World Cup match since July 1930 v Chile.
- Daniel Arzani has become the youngest player to make a World Cup appearance for Australia (19y 163d).
'I'm not going to complain about VAR' - what they said
France coach Didier Deschamps: "The opening match is always a dangerous one and we are very happy to have won today, we are in a good position.
"It was a highly difficult match, the Australian team was very good and as far as France is concerned we were not quick enough going forward.
"At the beginning of the match it was not great, that was obvious. This is the World Cup, we must do better and we can and we will. We were not quick enough on the pitch, our offence was not as good as it should have been, but we should not say we did not know what to do. You should not exaggerate.
"I'm not going to complain about VAR because it was in our favour obviously but the referee did not see there had been a foul and was able to correct this and correct his mistake."
Australia coach Bert van Marwijk: "We showed guts and we could be ourselves, but the next game is another game and this gives us confidence.
"The French did not know what to do for large parts of the game, but France is not my problem and I will not talk about them. I wish them luck."
On the French penalty, he said: "I haven't seen it back on television, from my position I could not see it really well but at first I thought it was no penalty. The body language from the referee was that he didn't know and you have to take a decision - France or Australia.
"From 10 people, seven say penalty and three say no penalty. It is very difficult for a referee to decide. He was standing very close to the moment and he directly said no penalty.
"Everybody is talking about the VAR but for me it is the start and we have got to learn a lot about this system, but I prefer to say something about the game, that is much more important and I can't change the decision."
- 12TolissoBooked at 76minsSubstituted forMatuidiat 78'minutes
- 7GriezmannSubstituted forGiroudat 70'minutes
- 11DembéléSubstituted forFekirat 70'minutes
- 19RisdonBooked at 57mins
- 16BehichBooked at 87mins
- 7LeckieBooked at 13mins
- 10KruseSubstituted forArzaniat 84'minutes
- 23RogicSubstituted forIrvineat 72'minutes
- 11NabboutSubstituted forJuricat 64'minutes
- Andrés Cunha
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, France 2, Australia 1.
Paul Pogba (France) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Mathew Leckie (Australia).
Attempt blocked. Josh Risdon (Australia) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Daniel Arzani.
Foul by Lucas Hernández (France).
Mathew Leckie (Australia) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Lucas Hernández (France) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Josh Risdon (Australia).
Attempt blocked. Nabil Fekir (France) left footed shot from long range on the right is blocked.
Aziz Behich (Australia) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Nabil Fekir (France) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Aziz Behich (Australia).
Foul by Olivier Giroud (France).
Trent Sainsbury (Australia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Nabil Fekir (France) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Aaron Mooy (Australia).
Hand ball by Kylian Mbappé (France).
Substitution, Australia. Daniel Arzani replaces Robbie Kruse.
Attempt missed. Lucas Hernández (France) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right following a corner.