Durban - South Africa, chasing 303 to win the second Test and the series against India, slipped to 111 for three when bad light ended play an hour after tea on day three at Kingsmead on Tuesday.
Shanthakumaran Sreesanth dismissed Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla in the space of three overs either side of tea to put the top-ranked test team in a good position to level the three-match series.
Both batsmen played poor strokes to get out.
Smith tried to pull Sreesanth from outside off stump but hit the ball straight up in the air to be caught for 37 by wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, while Amla edged a flatfooted swish at the same bowler and was caught behind for 16.
Sreesanth took two for 30 in seven overs after struggling in the first innings.
South Africa had begun their run-chase in daring fashion as Smith and Alviro Petersen put on 63 for the first wicket in 12 overs, but Petersen (26) was also out in the third over after tea as he plopped a bat/pad catch into the hands of short-leg off Harbhajan Singh.
Jacques Kallis (12) and AB de Villiers (17) were the batsmen at the crease when play was stopped with the outcome of the match still in the balance.
India had earlier extended their second innings to 228 all out thanks to Vangipurappu Laxman (96) and Zaheer Khan (27), who added 70 for the eighth wicket.
Laxman's fluent 171-ball masterclass steadied India after three wickets fell early on the third morning. His resistance ended when he was the last batsman out, edging a cut off fast bowler Dale Steyn and being caught behind.
Morne Morkel was South Africa's most dangerous bowler with three for 47 in 15 overs, but pace spearhead Steyn was inconsistent. Left-arm seamer Lonwabo Tsotsobe claimed a test best three for 43.
Teams India - Murali Vijay, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid,
Sachin Tendulkar, Vangipurappu Laxman, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mahendra Singh
Dhoni (capt, wk), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma,
South Africa - Graeme Smith (capt), Alviro
Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince,
Mark Boucher (wk), Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Dale Steyn, Paul Harris, Morne
India 1st innings 205 (V. Laxman 38; D. Steyn 6-50).
South Africa 1st innings 131 (H. Amla 33; Harbhajan 4-10)
India 2nd innings 228 (V. Laxman 96; M. Morkel 3-47, L. Tsotsobe 3-43)
South Africa 2nd innings
G. Smith c Dhoni b Sreesanth 37
A. Petersen c Pujara b Harbhajan 26
H. Amla c Dhoni b Sreesanh 16
J. Kallis not out 12
A. de Villiers not out 17
Extras (nb-3) 3
Total (for three wickets, 27 overs) 111
Fall of wickets: 1-63, 2-82, 3-82
To bat: A. Prince, M. Boucher, D. Steyn, P. Harris, M. Morkel, L. Tsotsobe
Bowling: Zaheer 6-2-25-0, Ishant 5-0-21-0 (3-nb), Sreesanth 7-0-30-2, Harbhajan 8-0-29-1, Tendulkar 1-0-6-0.