The Americans improved to 3-0 at Rio and 19-0 all-time against the Australians, but the full-game challenge posed by the Aussies could be the greatest game ever produced by the "Boomers."
The Australians, ousted by the Americans in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic quarter-finals, have four players who won NBA titles and had talked of pulling off an upset.
At the very least, they raised confidence for every team in Rio that the US squad can be threatened and perhaps denied a third consecutive gold medal.
The Americans scored the first nine points of the third quarter for a 58-54 lead and did not trail again until Joe Ingles' layup put the Boomers ahead 72-70 with nine minutes to play.
A 10-2 US run in response featured eight points from Anthony and produced an 80-74 edge. The Aussies stayed hot on the US NBA stars' heels but came no closer than four points after that.
Anthony had 14 points in the fourth quarter while Irving contributed 12. Kevin Durant scored 14 points on the night while Anthony and DeAndre Jordan each grabbed eight rebounds.
Patty Mills led Australia with 30 points while Andrew Bogut added 15 and Matthew Dellavedova had 11 points and 11 assists.
It was a physical contest, with Jordan getting a technical foul, Kyle Lowry picking up an unsportsmanlike one and Draymond Green tripping Mills as he accelerated for a fast break hoop.
Mills scored 15 points in the first half and Bogut added 13 as the Aussies shot 68 percent in the first half, sinking 19-of-28 shots from the floor, while the Americans made only 37 percent (17-of-46).
US coach Mike Krzyzewski was emotional, confronting Greek referee Christos Christodoulou over a foul call at one stage in the crucial third quarter.
A 15-3 Australia run in the second quarter, led by six points from captain David Andersen, put the US team in a 46-39 hole.
However, Anthony set the tone as the US roared back to extend their winning Olympic run to 20 games stretching back to a semi-final defeat to Argentina in Athens 12 years ago.