South Africa lost skipper Faf du Plessis amid a clatter of late wickets as the match pendulum swung decisively towards Australia in the third day-night Test in Adelaide on Saturday.
The Australians, who led by 124 runs on the first innings, reduced the Proteas to 194 for six with the prized wicket of Du Plessis for 12 runs late on Day 3.
At the close, South Africa were just 70 runs ahead of Australia, heading into Sunday’s fourth day.
Opener Stephen Cook was in sight of his second Test century and was unbeaten on 81 off 199 balls with wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock yet to score.
Australia, bidding to prevent South Africa from carrying off a series clean sweep after huge defeats in the opening two Tests, took major strides on Saturday with Usman Khawaja leading the way with his near eight-hour epic.
Mitchell Starc captured the big wicket of Du Plessis who, motivated by the events of his controversial pre-Test ball-tampering case, scored a career pinnacle unbeaten 118 in the first innings of the match.
Du Plessis attempted to drive Starc only to get an outside edge to newcomer Peter Handscomb, who took a brilliant diving two-handed catch in the gully.
It was a major moment in the course of the Test given the ability of Du Plessis to play out long match-saving innings, memorably his defiant 376-ball unbeaten knock of 110 to deny Australia victory in Adelaide four years ago.
Starc started the ball rolling, removing Dean Elgar with the fourth ball of his opening over for a duck and fellow paceman Josh Hazlewood had Hashim Amla caught behind for 45.
It was the fifth time Hazlewood had captured Amla’s wicket in five innings in the series.