Cape Town -Sachin Tendulkar survived two blistering spells of fast bowling from Dale Steyn as he compiled his 51st Test century and took India closer to South Africa's first innings total on the third day of the third and final Test at Newlands on Tuesday.
Tendulkar was unbeaten on 136 at tea as India reached 316 for six, 46 behind South Africa's first innings total of 362.
Steyn had a superb spell at the start of the day, almost all of it bowled to Tendulkar, and beat the master batsman several times without finding the edge.
Steyn then had an even better spell with the second new ball before and after lunch, taking two wickets for three runs in six hostile overs. He dismissed Cheteshwar Pujara and Mahendra Singh Dhoni to reduce India to a precarious 247 for six.
But Tendulkar and the unorthdox Harbhajan Singh (34 not out) frustrated the South African bowlers during an unbeaten seventh wicket stand of 69, although both batsmen survived concerted appeals for catches behind the wicket off Steyn.
Umpire Ian Gould turned down both appeals, which came during the space of four balls, and television replays indicated he was correct both times. Steyn seemed furious when the appeal against Harbhajan was turned down but it appeared the ball deflected off the off stump at high pace, remarkably without disturbing a bail.
Steyn had figures of three for 55 from 26 overs, despite being slogged for six by Harbhajan when he returned to the attack shortly before tea. But he did not get enough support from his fellow bowlers.
Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir added 62 runs to their overnight partnership of 114 before Gambhir was caught behind off left-arm slow bowler Paul Harris for 93.
The left-handed opening batsman seldom looked totally in command during an innings which spanned 318 minutes and 223 balls with 12 fours but it was a crucial contribution as India sought their first series win in South Africa.
Harris had a hand in a second wicket shortly before lunch when Tendulkar hit a scorching straight drive which the bowler deflected into the stumps with VVS Laxman, who was backing up, well out of his crease.
Laxman, man of the match when India won the second Test in Durban by 87 runs, was the second player in successive matches to be run out in this fashion, with South Africa's Jacques Kallis the victim
In the first innings in Durban.
It was not Tendulkar's most fluent innings but he showed the temperament that has made him the leading run-scorer in Test cricket in reaching his century off 212 balls, albeit luck was on his side as a top-edged attempted hook against Morne Morkel flew for six.
South Africa, first innings, 362
India, first innings (overnight 142-2)
G. Gambhir c Boucher b Harris 93
V. Sehwag c Smith b Steyn 13
R. Dravid run out (De Villiers) 5
S. Tendulkar not out 136
V. Laxman run out (Harris) 15
C. Pujara lbw b Steyn 2
M. Dhoni c Prince b Steyn 0
Harbhajan Singh not out 34
Extras (lb16, nb1, w1) 18
Total (6 wkts, 107 overs) 316
Fall of wickets: 1-19 (Sehwag), 2-28 (Dravid), 3-204 (Gambhir), 4-235 (Laxman), 5-237 (Pujara), 6-247 (Dhoni)
Bowling: Steyn 26-10-55-3, Morkel 27-7-96-0, Tsotsobe 26-5-82-0, Harris 26-7-58-1, Petersen 2-0-9-0
To bat: Zaheer Khan, I. Sharma, S. Sreesanth
Match position: India trail by 46 runs with four wickets remaining in the first innings.
Umpires: Ian Gould (ENG), Simon Taufel (AUS)
TV umpire: Brian Jerling (RSA)
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)
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 - Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid,
Sachin Tendulkar, Vangipurappu Laxman, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mahendra Singh
Dhoni (capt, wk), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma,