Five wickets in the final session of day two saw England roar their way back into the second Test, and the series, against the Proteas at Newlands on Saturday.
The match is now delicately balanced heading into Sunday’s third day, with the Proteas missing a golden opportunity to bat themselves into a position of dominance.
Dean Elgar (88) and Rassie van der Dussen (68) shared a 119-run stand for the fourth-wicket that looked to be doing exactly that, but there was chaos either side of that partnership from a South African point of view with the nature of some of those dismissals leaving the players with only themselves to blame.
At stumps, South Africa were 215/8, still trailing by 54 runs.
A wicketless middle session, through Elgar and Van der Dussen, was a crucial period for the hosts, who had slumped to 40/3 after bowling England out for 269.
The Newlands wicket had flattened out somewhat since day one and the early assessment was that the Proteas could bat big, but that top-order wobble had them on the ropes from the very beginning.
Stuart Broad (2/36) bowled superbly for England and had debutant Pieter Malan out for 5 when the Cape Cobras opener hung his bat out when he didn’t need to play only to edge to Joe Root at first slip.
Zubayr Hamza (5) was Broad’s next victim when he was trapped on the crease by another probing delivery, also guiding the ball towards the slip cordon where Ben Stokes took the first of four impressive catches low and to his right.
When skipper Faf du Plessis (1) edged James Anderson (3/34) to Stokes, the Proteas top order had cracked again and England were smelling blood.
That brought Elgar and Van der Dussen together, and together they set about the rescue job.
Van der Dussen, in only his second Test match, was fortunate.
He was given out LBW off Anderson when he was 6*, but he reviewed immediately with replays showing a thick inside edge as the decision was overturned.
Then, after lunch, Van der Dussen was walking off the Newlands turf after he gloved Broad through to Jos Buttler when he was on 16 as England celebrated.
Technology again came to Van der Dussen’s aid when replays revealed that Broad had, in fact, bowled a no-ball. As the day went on, the on-field umpire missed several front-foot no-balls that did not have the same consequence.
Those were two scary moments for Van der Dussen, but the correct decisions were taken on both occasions and he then set about patiently building his innings as the English bowlers toiled.
Van der Dussen had yet another moment of fortune when he was dropped by Stokes off Anderson. The catch was taken cleanly, but a diving Stokes lost control of the ball as his elbows hit the deck and Van der Dussen was let off the hook.
For all of the hard work that Elgar had done, looking in complete control for his entire 255-minute stay at the crease, a poor shot and lapse of concentration off off-spinner Dom Bess saw him sky one to Root at mid-off.
It was a breakthrough that changed the course of England’s day as Elgar left the arena in disbelief.
The dangerous Quinton de Kock (20), in familiar fashion, got about his work quickly before also playing a horrible-looking shot off a Sam Curran slower ball that completely deceived him for pace. De Kock was committed to what looked an attempt at an aggressive drive, but by the time he was through his shot all he had done was pick out Anderson at mid-off.
Having shown such application to get back on track, the Proteas had allowed England back into the game with two disappointing shots from Elgar and De Kock.
To make matters even worse, Van der Dussen ran out of luck just four overs later when he pushed at a delivery from Curran and found, once more, a diving Stokes who took his third catch of the day in seriously sharp fashion.
Stokes, remarkably, then had a fourth catch when he snapped up Dwaine Pretorius (4) off Anderson in the first over with the second new ball.
This Newlands wicket is starting to offer some unpredictable bounce, particularly from the Wynberg end, and if England can get through the South African lower order efficiently on Sunday and build a lead in excess of 250, then it will be an incredibly difficult run chase for the Proteas.
Keshav Maharaj (4) was last to go, inside-edging Anderson onto his pad as the ball looped to Dom Sibley.
Vernon Philander (13*) will be joined at the crease by Kagiso Rabada when play starts again on Sunday.
Suddenly, this Test series has sparked into life.