Boomers guard Adam Gibson had an open three-point shot as time expired to win the game, but it just rimmed out as the gallant Aussies missed an opportunity to soar to the top of Group A.
The Boomers led by 10 points in the third quarter, but the Argentines finally got their noses in front for the first time midway through the final term and used their greater experience to stay there.
NBA superstar Luis Scola was unstoppable for the South Americans, finishing with a game-high 31 points, while Joe Ingles was outstanding for the Aussies with 22 points and Patty Mills added 21.
An Ingles three-point play opened the scoring in the final quarter, but it took more than six minutes for Australia to score again as the Argentines took control.
The Boomers fought back to tie the game on a Mills three-pointer with 54 seconds left, but the South Americans finished strongly and watched with relief as Gibson's shot refused to go down to join Australia with a 1-1 record.
With this sort of form the Australians can still cause plenty of damage in the tournament, but they might end up ruing one that got away against the world's top-ranked team.
The Boomers had clearly shaken off the jitters from their fortunate one-point win over Jordan on Saturday, with firstly Adam Gibson and then Mills confidently knocking down three-pointers.
Their defence was in sync and they were moving the ball well on offence, skipping out to a 13-5 lead following a three-point play by David Andersen.
That was when Scola, a teammate of Andersen's at NBA club Houston last season before the Australian was traded to Toronto, began to impose himself.
Scola reeled off 11 points to end the quarter on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting to get the South Americans within two, but a late Mills triple gave the Boomers a 25-20 quarter-time edge.
The second term was an absolute dogfight, with the feisty Boomers taking it right up to their more-fancied opponents.
Neither team scored in an intense opening three minutes of the second quarter, with the Australians going score-less until Andersen broke the drought with a short jumper in the lane with less than four minutes on the clock.
Twice Argentina drew level, but they couldn't get in front, with the Boomers taking a well-deserved 39-33 lead at the long break.
The upstart Aussies kept it going in the third quarter, dictating terms to build a 10-point lead with four minutes remaining, but the Argentines lifted to close the gap to just four points at the final break.
The South Americans then just took the win in one of the games of the tournament.
All Boomers’ games are being shown on FOX SPORTS.
AAP / James Dampney
Argentina 74 (Luis Scola 31 points, Leonardo Gutierrez 17)
Australia 72 (Joe Ingles 22, Patrick Mills 21, Matt Nielsen 10)
1st Q Australia 25, Argentina 20
2nd Q Australia 14, Argentina 13
3rd Q Australia 17, Argentina 19
4th Q Australia 16, Argentina 22
Click here to see World Championship group standings.
2010 FIBA World Championship
Australian Boomers Preliminary Round Schedule
Date - Opponent - Time (Local/AEST) - Venue
28 Aug Australia 76 defeated Jordan 75
29 Aug Australia 72 lost to Argentina 74
30 Aug Australia vs. Germany 7:00PM/2:00AM Kayseri
1 Sept Australia vs. Serbia 4:30PM/11:30PM Kayseri
2 Sept Australia vs. Angola 4:30PM/11:30AM Kayseri