Austria boss Marcel Koller was under pressure before kick-off and without several players because of injury and suspension and for a long time it looked like his qualification hopes would be boosted by victory, until the late intervention of Walters.
O'Neill took some comfort from the fact that Ireland continued a habit of scoring late to rescue games.
At what point does Glenn Whelan start bringing a deck chair with him when he plays for Ireland?
"But Marko is a big miss for them because he can create something out of nothing". He's clearly the best player either country can boast and he showed that today as he was classy in possession and involved in most of Austria's best moments.
Harry Arter dragged a 55th-minute shot wide when he might have done better, and that prompted O'Neill to make his move, sending on striker Daryl Murphy for left-back Stephen Ward and asking Brady to drop into the back four. The Stoke striker attended the pre match press conference with the Ireland boss and Walters is nearly certain to start up front as a lone striker as he did in the 3-1 win over Uruguay last Sunday.
Shane Duffy said there was no anger from the manager over the way the home team had failed to impose themselves on their opponents, just a clear instruction that having tried but failed to play their way past Austria, the locals needed to go long. How did that not go in? He made a mountain out of a molehill with my ball and made it his own.
The Burnley man was delighted with Ireland's response in the second period however and credited Jon Walters with a fine finish from his hopeful long pass forward.
"Longy had a great header and Murph and, obviously, my one and Jonny and, maybe, that was a penalty", he said by way of summing up the attacking side of Ireland's game.
Austria: Lindner (GK), Lainer, Dragovic, Hinteregger, Alaba, Kainz (Gregoritsch 89), Junuzovic (Grillitsch 78), Baumgartlinger (C), Prodl, Burgstaller (Harnik 74), Lazaro. People can also watch and enjoy the match of Ireland Republic vs Austria which is live streamed in Sling TV.
The Irish now sit second in the group behind leaders Serbia on goal difference, with both teams having an unbeaten record of three wins and two draws at the halfway stage of the group.