For a regular expression to match, the entire regular expression must match, not just part of it. So if the beginning of a pattern containing a quantifier succeeds in a way that causes later parts in the pattern to fail, the matching engine backs up and recalculates the beginning part—that's why it's called backtracking.
The regex engine begins as you say, by matching everything to the first .*, but when the whole match fails it then backtracks one character and tries again. Eventually, it has backtracked to the point at which $1 contains foo_bar and $2 contains foo_bar_12345. The regex engine then verifies that this value of $2 does finally satisfy the condition \1.*, so the entire match succeeds and the regex engine stops looking and returns.
Athanasius <°(((>< contra mundum
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