Opener Dean Elgar led South Africa's spectacular fightback with a gutsy unbeaten century to bring his team in sight of the follow-on mark on the third day of the opening test at Visakhapatnam on Friday.
Elgar remained unbeaten on 133 after completing his 12th hundred in tests with Quinton de Kock 69 not out as South Africa reached 292 for five at tea, still 210 runs behind the hosts' first innings score of 502 for seven declared.
Left-handed Elgar, 32, added 115 for the fifth wicket with captain Faf du Plessis to launch South Africa's rearguard action in the morning before going on to compile another substantial stand of 114 for the sixth with de Kock to keep India at bay.
After South Africa resumed on a precarious 39-3, India would have expected their spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to inflict quick damages but their only success in the first session came from experienced fast bowler Ishant Sharma.
Temba Bavuma was out leg before for 18 to the lanky paceman who got the delivery to curl back in viciously and hit the batsman's pad, reducing the touring side to 63-4.