South Africa reduced Australia to 175-6 at tea on day three of the first Test at Kingsmead, but the visitors still had a lead of 364.
Keshav Maharaj, who was South Africa’s pick of the bowlers in the first innings, again impressed to ensure the home side will have a bowl at the Australian tail in the final session.
Australia slowed their run rate considerably after lunch as they looked to bat for as long as possible with two full days of cricket remaining.
Captain Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh began the second session for Australia and it was apparent that they were in no hurry.
With a lot of cricket remaining in the day, they were not taking any risks, and their lead was slowly growing.
Maharaj was unlucky when Smith misjudged the spin and the ball hit his back pad. The umpire’s finger didn’t go up, but it was reviewed by Faf du Plessis. The Australia captain survived in what was a controversial decision.
Marsh also survived an lbw call off the bowling of Kagiso Rabada a couple of overs later.
South Africa’s big breakthrough came via an unexpected source as Dean Elgar trapped Smith for lbw on 38.
Mitchell Marsh, Australia’s hero in the first innings, didn’t stay long as he was out for six. Rabada pitched the ball just outside off and found the younger Marsh’s edge to Hashim Amla at first slip.
Despite losing quick wickets, the visitors’ lead was growing slowly, and creeping towards the 350-mark.
Maharaj had another good lbw shout that didn’t go his way with Shaun Marsh at the crease.
Wicketkeeper Tim Paine (14) was Maharaj’s third wicket when he got an outside edge to AB de Villiers at first slip.
Australia’s (1st innings) 351: Mitchell Marsh 96, Steve Smith 56; Keshav Maharaj 5-123, Vernon Philander 2-59
South Africa (1st innings) 162: AB de Villiers 71, Aiden Markram 32; Mitchell Starc 5-34, Nathan Lyon 3-50
Australia (2nd innings) 175-6: Cameron Bancroft 53, Steve Smith 38, Keshav Maharaj 3-78, Kagiso Rabada 2-23
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images