Perth: Australia dismissed South Africa for 225 despite another dogged rearguard action from Faf du Plessis before moving nervously to 33 for two at the close of play on a thrilling first day of the third Test at the Waca on Friday.
The Australian pace-bowling unit had reduced the tourists to 75 for six with five quick wickets around the lunch break but Du Plessis once again proved unmovable until he ran out of partners, when unbeaten on 78.
Opener David Warner, who was unbeaten on 12, and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon, who had made seven, will resume on day two of a Test which will decide which of the countries will be No. 1 in the rankings.
Australia's selectors had earlier been vindicated in their decision to rest Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle after the pacemen had run themselves into the ground in Adelaide in the wake of a series-ending injury to James Pattinson.
All rounder Watson, who missed the two drawn Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide with a calf injury, made the first breakthrough with 38 runs on the board when he had Graeme Smith caught in the slips by Michael Clarke for 16.
The South Africans were looking like they might just survive until lunch, albeit with a modest total, before the intervention of left-arm quick Starc.
Two full, late-swinging deliveries in six balls fooled first opener Alviro Petersen (30) and then all-rounder Jacques Kallis (2) and ripped through the gate to make a mess of the stumps.
There was to be no respite after lunch and Hashim Amla had already been dropped by Cowan when he was run out by Warner's direct hit without adding to his tally of 11.
Cowan's spill deprived Hastings of his first Test wicket but the bowler did not have to wait long to claim it as he found some late movement to have AB de Villiers caught in the slips for four.
South Africa were now well and truly on the rack and it got worse when Johnson finally got some reward for some fine swing bowling with the first of his two wickets. (Reuters)