It wasn't quite the innings victory they had hoped for, but triumph over Sri Lanka by 10 wickets on day four at Newlands was more than enough to give South Africa their first home Test series win since 2008.

Heading into Friday in pursuit of six more wickets to wrap up a two-one win in the three-match series, the Proteas encountered plenty of resistance from Thilan Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews for a full session. Riding their luck, with outside edges missed and a slew of run-outs marginally avoided, the defiant duo held firm enough to send the hosts into the lunch break without breakthrough.

A pep talk from coach Gary Kirsten and captain Graeme Smith brought a much more inspired unit out to the middle after the break and, with the new ball in hand, the desired results soon followed.

Vernon Philander landed the initial blow with an lbw decision as plumb as they come. Playing across the line to a delivery that kept rather low, Mathews was struck on the pads dead in front of the stumps. The half-centurion tried his luck with a review, but really there was no getting around the obvious.

With the all-rounder on his way for 63 and the potentially dangerous Dinesh Chandimal out shortly thereafter, also to Philander, South Africa sensed the change in tide and duly rode it all the way to success.

The lower-order, led by Thisara Perera's enterprising 30, afforded Samaraweera brief support to move to his second century of the series and 14th of his career. Drafted into the squad as late injury cover, one wonders why the in-form right-hander wasn't part of Sri Lanka's initial plans.

Imran Tahir, frustrated by Morne Morkel's spill in the deep off the spinner's bowling, but buoyed by the dismissals of Perera and Dhammika Prasad, did enough damage to allow Jacques Kallis to close the deal.

The hometown hero, duly named Man of the Match for his six catches, double-century and three wickets, saw to it that Rangana Herath and Chanaka Welegedara's hopes of a few lusty blows were ended. But not before Welegedara had carted the right-armer high and hard down the ground for the six that at least made South Africa bat again.

With the celebratory Champagne on ice across the tea break, Graeme Smith and Alviro Peteresen emerged to an appreciative crowd and required just one delivery - an illegitimate one, at that - to resign their opposition to defeat.

Right-arm seamer Prasad coughed up a no-ball immediately, which Petersen drove for a token single send the Newlands faithful into collective crescendo at the arrival of victory for the home side.

The victory was Smith's first as captain and saw him draw equal with Australia's Steve Waugh. Only Ricky Ponting sports more Test victories. Meanwhile, Smith was an elated man in welcoming his first Test series win since undoing Bangladesh in 2008. AB de Villiers was named Man of the Series for his contribution of 353 runs in four knocks at the impressive average of 117.66.

The teams will now meet for five ODIs, the first of which gets underway in Paarl on Wednesday.

Jonhenry Wilson at Newlands