Johannesburg - Proteas fast-bowler Dale Steyn attributed his team's comeback to some fine bowling that saw the Australian batsmen dismissed for 296.
"We brought it back beautifully after lunch when the guys really stepped up," said Steyn who picked up four wickets for 64 on Friday.
Australia were in a commanding position at lunch on day two of the Wanderers Test before the tables were turned on the visitors.
"Every time we bowled a bad ball it seemed to go for four and we had
to get it in the correct areas which we didn't do enough in the first
"We had a chat at lunch and we managed to slow the
run-rate down and pull the game back. The bowlers did a great job, Morne
Morkel and Vernon Philander started it and we created more pressure,"
"We were staring down the barrel at 170 for no loss and we needed to get the run rate down.
"As soon as we did that, we picked up wickets."
Imran Tahir took his first three Test wickets to help clean up the tail and returned figures of three for 55.
His first ball after tea had Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin trapped lbw and, four balls later, he clipped Peter Siddle’s stumps before dismissing tail-ender Nathan Lyon.
"In the second innings, Imran will come to the party again," said Steyn.
"He’s a wicket-taker so we’re going to go for a few more runs but we will bowl teams out."
On 169 without loss at lunch, the Baggy Greens lost wickets at regular intervals in the afternoon as the South African bowlers looked like a different attack.
Openers Phillip Hughes and Shane Watson were two runs short of the record opening stand at this particular ground, set in 1957/58, when Vernon Philander eventually made the breakthrough.
With the ball moving away from the left-hander, Hughes (88) edged a catch to AB de Villiers at first slip, ending the 174 run opening stand.
Watson was also on 88 when he pulled a short ball from Jacques Kallis to Imran Tahir at deep square-leg.
Hughes said both he and Watson were disappointed not to cash in on their partnership but complimented the Proteas on their bowling in the afternoon session.
"They bowled outstandingly after lunch," said the 22-year-old who reached the milestone 1000-Test-runs during his innings.
"We saw the ball had good carry and was swinging all day so we need to start well tomorrow and hold onto our catches."
Ponting’s run of bad form continued and he was back in the changeroom for a duck, lbw to Steyn and Michael Clarke’s (11) poor shot-selection gave De Villiers his second catch of the match when the Australian skipper tried to cut a ball from Morne Morkel.
Usman Khawaja took nearly two hours to score his 12 runs before he gave Steyn his second wicket, playing across the line.
The paceman also saw to the removal of Michael Hussey (20) before Tahir mopped up the tail.
Australia have a lead of 30 runs after South Africa were dismissed for 266 on the first day.
South Africa faced four balls, without scoring, before bad light stopped play.