Graeme Smith’s unbeaten century has given South Africa hope of saving the second Test.
The Proteas captain reached 111 not out at stumps as his team survived several hairy moments on the way to 2-217 on an Adelaide Oval pitch starting to play a few tricks.
Jacques Rudolph was 25 not out and may have to replicate his match-saving ton at the WACA Ground seven years ago if South Africa are to remain square before the third Test.
The pair added 48 after Hashim Amla became a victim of occasional leg-spinner David Warner who found bounce and turn missing for most of the other spinners used in the game.
Warner had Amla stumped for 11 in his first over as Matthew Wade made amends for missing a chance off Smith in the middle session.
Smith struck 12 fours during 265 minutes in the middle.
His contribution was even more valuable after fellow opener Alviro Petersen ran himself out early in the session.
Petersen’s fundamental error cost his wicket after the openers had put on 138 and started to look increasingly comfortable against Australia’s tiring attack.
Petersen drove Nathan Lyon hard to mid on and should have made the single easily but for a sudden swerve to avoid his batting partner followed by a failure to ground his bat as Mike Hussey’s throw whistled from the infield.
The right-hander would have found safety if he had been more attentive but was out of his ground by several centimetres as the ball hit the stumps.
Smith was given out caught behind off James Pattinson on 78 but the decision was overturned because the Hotspot technology did not show a mark on his bat.
Earlier Australia was dismissed for 550 with Michael Clarke making 230.