South Africa's bid to save the second Test copped a quartet of telling blows on day four at the Adelaide Oval.
Set an improbable 430 to win the match, the hosts endured a brace of wickets on either side of the tea break, ending Sunday on 77 for four - and still a hefty 353 runs in the red.
Captain Graeme Smith's departure was the most detrimental, with his impressive fourth-innings statistics rendered null and void by a duck, ensured by thick edge to second slip.
The right-handed Hashim Amla played for the turn, only to edge a straight delivery from spinner Nathan Lyon, while the left-handed Jacques Rudolph's shoddy stretch of form continued when he was caught at short-leg.
Opener Alviro Petersen played down the wrong line soon thereafter, duly bowled by fast bowler Peter Siddle to leave the visitors reeling on 45 for four.
Entirely aware of the veritable tour de force needed at the start of the innings, the loss of four top-order wickets in relatively quick succession made wicketkeeper-batsman AB de Villiers and debutant Faf du Plessis' task even tougher.
The duo, though, dutifully obliged - albeit in dogged fashion lacking any semblance of intent to score runs. De Villiers and du Plessis garnered a mere 32 runs across an unbroken partnership that spanned 29 overs.
While their collective resilience was admirable, they'll need to triple their valiance if the Proteas are to avoid a one-nil series deficit on Monday.
Injury to Australian seamer James Pattinson, who has been ruled out of the rest of the match - and the series - by a side strain - will make the South Africans' task somewhat more achievable.
Pattinson, who will also miss the series against Sri Lanka later this year, at least signed off with another quickfire cameo to afford Australia a declaration on 267 for eight earlier. The cavalier tail-ender added to his 42-run cameo in the first innings with a handy 29 not out on Sunday.
Staving off the pain to accompany half-centurion Michael Hussey, wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade and the remainder of the lower-order, Pattinson showed the necessary fight to push the lead beyond 400.
Buoyed by fast bowler Morne Morkel's eight wickets for the match in the absence of the injured Vernon Philander, the Proteas will also take heart from de Villiers and du Plessis' performance.
They will also cling onto the fact that they have never lost a match in which Smith has scored a century, though signs almost dictate the skipper's 26th Test ton might be his first in defeat.