Adelaide: Graeme Smith struck a defiant century in response to Australia's massive first innings total, but the hosts grabbed a pair of wickets after tea to restrict South Africa to 217 for two at the close of the second day of the second Test.
With Australia's bowlers toiling fruitlessly on a flat deck at Adelaide Oval during the heat of the day, the South Africa captain nudged his team steadily forward to give them hope of getting close to the home side's imposing score of 550.
"He's a fantastic leader and we've seen it again today," paceman Morne Morkel told reporters after Smith strode off the ground unbeaten on 111, with Jacques Rudolph on 25.
"We needed a guy up front to be solid and he's still there. We always know that day three is the moving day and an important day for us as a unit, so coming here on there's going to be 11 very hungry South Africans taking the field."
Smith's 26th century capped a remarkable turnaround for South Africa after they were torched for 482 runs on day one by home captain Michael Clarke and the Australian batsmen.
Morkel led a much improved performance by South Africa's bowlers, capturing the prized wicket of Clarke for 230 among three in the morning to finish with a five-wicket haul.
The hosts were dismissed shortly before lunch, with their last five wickets managing to add just 68 runs.
Smith's heroics were marred slightly by the cheap losses of opener Alviro Petersen and Hashim Amla late in the day.