France had a goal ruled out by VAR for offside in the last minute of stoppage time as Tunisia held on to register a shock victory.
However, despite the victory, they failed to qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup.
Substitute Antoine Griezmann netted a spectacular equalizer at the Education City Stadium but VAR’s decision meant Tunisia captain Wahbi Khazi’s brilliant first-half goal proved to be the winner.
However, Australia recording a 1-0 win against Denmark in the other Group D game, Tunisia’s hopes of progress had been dashed before Griezmann’s goal was ruled out.
“It’s mixed because we’re happy to beat a team like France,” said Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri.
“We can be proud and walk away with our heads held high, but this is a bitter victory.
“It would have been nice to beat France and reach the round of 16. It’s our fault if we didn’t do what we had to do before.”
France qualified for the round of 16 as group winners having already secured qualification with a victory over Denmark in the last game.
Despite their failure to progress, Tunisia captain Khazi produced the moment fans have been waiting for – a goal in this World Cup – when he rolled to the edge of the box and coldly rolled it into the corner lower right.
There was an outpouring of emotion from many of the Tunisian fans at the stadium, as the Tunisian substitutes sprinted onto the pitch in a moment of pure elation.
But their celebrations were cut short when news of Australia’s advance began to spread through the stadium, with fans checking their phones for updates on the other Group D game.
France, much changed since their 2-1 win against Denmark having already qualified as group winners, lacked quality in a disappointing performance.
Paris St-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe and Atletico Madrid’s Griezmann were brought on later in the second half in an attempt to find a way back into the game.
They made an impact despite the boos and whistles of Tunisian fans eager to push them back and Griezmann almost provided the goal they craved.
Didier Deschamps’ side will face Group C runners-up, currently Argentina, in the Round of 16 on Sunday 4 December.
Tunisia’s wait to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time continues as they leave the competition.
Dramatic evening as Tunisian hopes soar
Tunisia knew they had to win the match to have any chance of progressing and they started with a lot of intention.
Striker Khazri was a threat, while France defender Eduardo Camavinga was often overloaded and needed support from Liverpool centre-back Ibrahima Konate.
Support for Tunisia far outweighed France and that majority received a brief flurry of celebration when Nader Ghandri’s volley flew past goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, only to be sent off for offside.
As the first half wore on, the impatience of the Tunisian fans began to show – although their support remained relentless – as chances came and went, but goalkeeper Mandanda had no seems to cash in.
Then a magical moment from Khazri opened up space for himself on the edge of the box and his low, accurate shot beat Mandanga into the bottom corner.
The Tunisian fans were hopeful – they were headed for the round of 16 as things stand – but two minutes later Australia’s goal eluded them.
“I said nothing was impossible. We managed to beat the world champions,” Kadri added.
“We were able to prove our efficiency and we gave our best. We worked as a team. It was not easy for us to get these four points. [in the group stage] but we leave with great honor and pride.”
Deschamps didn’t waste too much time in the second half to bring on Mbappe and Griezmann and from then on France were on top.
Tunisia hung on after a series of late corners, but Griezmann eventually found the back of the net via a deflection.
However, France’s celebrations quickly turned to frustration when the referee went to the pitchside monitor to see the VAR and the goal was ruled out.