Captain Brendan Taylor's unbeaten half-century kept Zimbabwe afloat as they reached tea on 165 for five on the first day of their one-off Test against South Africa at Harare Sports Club.
Taylor was more than equal to everything that South Africa's much-vaunted pace attack threw at him, and went into the break on 60 not out along with Richmond Mutumbami, who was on 15.
No 1-ranked South Africa had been expected to rifle through ninth-ranked Zimbabwe after the hosts had won the toss and elected to bat, but Taylor and his teammates showed guts and determination to avoid the anticipated massacre.
Dale Steyn did do some damage, however, picking up his 376th and 377th wickets to move past West Indian great Malcolm Marshall on the list of Test cricket's leading wicket-takers.
Meanwhile debutant Dane Piedt created his own piece of history as he became the 19th Test cricketer to pick up a wicket with his very first delivery, which trapped Mark Vermeulen lbw for 14.
Vermeulen's remarkable return to the Zimbabwe side had earlier been confirmed as he made a Test comeback almost eight years after burning down his country's cricket academy.
The offspinner Piedt went on to claim two wickets in three balls during the afternoon session on his way to figures of 3 for 61 from 14 overs, dismissing Hamilton Masakadza for 45 and Regis Chakabva for a duck.
Sean Williams responded to that double blow with a counter-attacking 24 before he became Steyn's second wicket, which saw Zimbabwe slip to 120 for five.
At that stage it appeared as though an embarrassing total could be on the cards for the home side, but Taylor and Mutumbami survived a fiery spell of reverse-swing bowling from Steyn and a barrage of short deliveries from Morne Morkel to see Zimbabwe safely to tea.