Cape Town - Alviro Petersen smashed a brisk half-century but Australia claimed crucial top order wickets to reduce South Africa to 127 for four at lunch on day three of the series-deciding third Test at Newlands on Monday.
AB de Villiers (13) and Faf du Plessis (three) will resume after the interval hoping to take the home side closer to the follow-on target of 295 after Australia had declared their first innings on their overnight score of 494 for seven.
There is already evidence of reverse-swing for the tourists with Ryan Harris (two for 18) grabbing the key wickets of Graeme Smith (five) and Hashim Amla (38).
South Africa made a fast start to their reply and scored at over four runs to the over, with Petersen (53) particularly severe on any loose bowling.
He reached his half-century in exactly 50 balls, including taking 18 off one James Pattinson over, before he was strangled down the leg-side by Mitchell Johnson with wicketkeeper Brad Haddin taking the catch.
Petersen's was the quickest 50 for South Africa against Australia since Barry Richards took 56 balls to compile his in Durban in 1970.
Smith was the first to go, his wretched series that has seen him score just 42 runs in five innings continuing, as he edged Harris to Haddin.
Dean Elgar (11) came in at number three and played a couple of confident strokes before he got an inside edge to a Pattinson delivery and was brilliantly caught by a sprawling Haddin.
The loss of Amla 20 minutes before lunch was a massive blow for the home side as he looked in excellent touch following on from his hundred in the second test.
Amla was undone by the reverse-swing of Harris, who got a delivery to shape back into the tight-hander and clatter into his stumps.
With an overcast start to the morning Australia opted not to bat on, leaving captain Michael Clarke not out on 161 in their first innings.
The teams are level at 1-1 with South Africa not having beaten Australia in a home test series for 44 years. – Reuters