Keegan Petersen survived and then flourished in a breathless 22 overs before stumps to take South Africa, who are chasing 212 to win the series, to 101/2 at stumps on the third day of the third Test at Newlands on Thursday.
A dramatic final session saw captain Dean Elgar all but bat through to the close, but he fell with just two balls remaining to stumps when he flashed at a delivery down the leg-side from Jasprit Bumrah, getting an edge, confirmed by DRS, which was well-taken by diving wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant.
Elgar had scored a typically measured 30 and shared in a tremendously plucky stand of 78 for the second wicket with Petersen.
The skipper had earlier been involved in a flashpoint just over an hour into their partnership when India – and most onlookers – were left convinced that the DRS system needed a breathalyser after Elgar, on 22, managed to overturn his lbw dismissal against off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
Ashwin drifted the ball into the pads of the left-hander and then straightened it off the pitch into his front leg, around knee height. Umpire Marais Erasmus understandably gave Elgar out and early replays suggested South Africa’s captain was stone dead. But ball-tracking then showed the ball bouncing over the stumps, much to the bemusement of practically everyone at the ground.
India were furious and made their displeasure known as both captain Virat Kohli and Ashwin made a point of shouting into the stump microphones.
Petersen continued to impress at the highest level, scoring 48 not out in another display of great composure and high skill.
Unfortunately for Aiden Markram, the embattled Proteas opener did not show as good judgement and his Test career is now in doubt as he was caught in the slips for 16, flashing a drive at Mohammed Shami, the ball after he had survived an edge through the slips.
India had earlier rather wasted an opportunity, on a sweltering day, to bat South Africa out of the game as they were dismissed for just 198.
Resuming on 57/2, they would lose Cheteshwar Pujara (9) and Ajinkya Rahane (1) in the first two overs of the day, bowled by Marco Jansen and Kagiso Rabada respectively.
Pant counter-attacked boldly, but with excellent shot-selection, as he and Kohli added 94 for the fifth wicket.
But the pressure bowling of Lungi Ngidi bore fruit after lunch as he ripped through the middle-order with a spell of 3/12 in seven overs, including the wicket of Kohli for a 143-ball 29, Markram taking a fantastic leaping catch at second slip.
Pant batted superbly while losing wickets at the other end and eventually completed a pugnacious, stroke-filled 100 not out off just 139 balls, which include four sixes.
Marco Jansen was threatening throughout and finished with 4/36 in 19-and-a-half overs, while Ngidi (14-5-21-3) and Rabada (17-5-53-3) kept the pressure on the batsmen.