The first Test between South Africa and Australia at the Gabba ended in a draw on Tuesday, despite a flurry of excitement near the end of day five, as Michael Clarke's wonderful double ton provided the highlight of the match.

Australia declared on 565 for five before lunch, and South Africa had a tough time for the rest of the day, losing five wickets for 166 runs and threatened to collapse and give the home fans a thrilling finale.

But AB de Villiers held firm for the Proteas, scoring a painfully dogged 29 not out off 114 balls to prevent a complete surrender, and the Aussies called it a day with half an hour to go, SA's lead just over 50.

The day started with the Australians on 487 for four, with Clarke on 218 and Michael Hussey 14 runs short of his century. The Proteas were encouraged by their early start and dismissed Mr Cricket just moments after he recorded his ton.

But that was a false dawn, as Clarke and Matthew Wade continued to frustrate the visiting bowlers, and by the time Clarke decided to declare the innings closed, he sat on 259, the highest Test score the Gabba has ever seen.

The South Africans started poorly, needing 115 runs to overtake the home score, losing Alviro Petersen with the score on just six, caught behind by Wade off James Pattinson. The fast bowler then though he had gotten rid of Hashim Amla, bowling him clean, but it was a no-ball.

The Proteas went into the lunch break on 31 for one, and afterwards Graeme Smith and Amla continued in what seemed a steady manner. It was a short reprieve though, as Smith fell for 23, the score on 55, caught by Rob Quiney off Pattinson.

This meant Amla was joined by his perpetual partner in crime, Jacques Kallis. The duo went along in their usual steady manner, taking the score past 100 just before tea, as they looked to bat out the day and secure the draw.

But Amla's early second chance was not to bear much fruit, as Peter Siddle claimed his wicket just before the session break. He was caught by Hussey with his score on 38, leaving Kallis and AB de Villiers to navigate to the break.

Kallis survived a number of appeals, but none could be referred as the Aussies had wasted their two reviews earlier in the innings. The 36-year-old continued to look imperious and seemed set for another big score, but was out for 49, brilliantly caught in the slips by Clarke off Nathan Lyon.

At this stage, the Proteas were effectively five wickets down with a lead of 20-odd runs, given that JP Duminy would not be available to bat. The Aussies got an extra spring in their step as the early draw suddenly looked like it could turn into an exciting finish.

De Villiers and Jacques Rudolph weren't cowed by the situation though, and the former in particular made an effort to play his shots. Rudolph could only add 11 to the score though, before he was trapped LBW by Lyon, leaving Vernon Philander to see out the game with De Villiers.