Aiden Markram offered a bit of resistance as the Proteas finished the second session on 167-5 in the first Test against Australia at Kingsmead.
With four sessions remaining in the Test, South Africa need another 250 runs for an unlikely victory.
Markram and Theunis de Bruyn played beautifully as they put on a useful 87 runs for the fifth wicket, before Josh Hazlewood broke the partnership.
Having lost four wickets before lunch, the pair started the session slowly for the home side.
Markram batted with maturity and brought up his third Test half century when he pushed a single through mid-on off the bowling of Nathan Lyon.
The South African opener hit two fours through the covers off Lyon and the partnership between himself and De Bruyn continued to rise.
They brought up the 50-run partnership with a single of Mitchell Starc.
De Bruyn was fortunate when he found a thick outside edge off the bowling of Starc, which flew between the wicketkeeper and first slip for four. De Bruyn then hit Starc for two more fours, which agitated the fast bowler.
Lyon came back in the attack, and De Bruyn was fortunate to survive an lbw appeal when he was hit on the back foot.
Hazlewood was then brought back into the attack and he struck with his first ball as De Bruyn edged to Tim Paine for 36.
Quinton de Kock joined Markram in the middle and the two saw South Africa to tea.
Australia (1st innings) 351: Mitchell Marsh 96, Steve Smith 56; Keshav Maharaj 5-123, Vernon Philander 2-59
South Africa (1st innings) 162: AB de Villiers71, Aiden Markram 32; Mitchell Starc 5-34, Nathan Lyon 3-50
Australia (2nd innings) 227: Cameron Bancroft 53, Steve Smith 38, Keshav Maharaj 4-102, Morne Morkel 3-42
South Africa (2nd innings) 167-5: Aiden Markram 85*, Theunis de Bruyn 36, Josh Hazlewood 2-34, Pat Cummins 1-19
South need 250 to win
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images