Johannesburg - Duanne Olivier on debut and Wayne Parnell on his return would have been looking to make a dent, but it was the experience of Vernon Philander (2/23) and Kagiso Rabada (2/26) that ultimately proved Sri Lanka's downfall at the Wanderers on Friday.
The visitors were 80/4 when bad light had stopped play under cloudy skies on day two, still 346 runs behind South Africa's first innings score of 426.
Angelo Mathews (11*) and Dinesh Chandimal (3*) were at the crease.
A phenomenal bowling performance from Nuwan Pradeep (4/78) had given Sri Lanka a sniff earlier in the day as the Proteas lost their last seven wickets for just 88 runs having started the day on 338/3.
But it was tough out there for the batsmen, and when it was their turn the Sri Lankans struggled against a relentless Proteas seam attack.
Philander made the initial breakthrough with the fourth ball of the Sri Lankan innings when he had Dimuth Karunaratne (0) caught behind.
Kaushal Silva and Kusal Mendis fought for their lives to see Sri Lanka get to tea at 46/1.
The final session, though, bore some fruit for the Proteas.
Rabada first had Silva caught behind for 13 with a beautifully shaped delivery before Mendis, who had batted bravely for his 41, was undone by a shorter delivery from the Proteas speedster that was lobbed to JP Duminy at gully.
Philander was then re-introduced into the attack and struck immediately when he had a driving Dhananjaya de Silva (10) caught sharply at backward point by Temba Bavuma.
Sri Lanka had picked up five wickets in the opening session with nightwatchman Duanne Olivier (3), captain Faf du Plessis (16), Bavuma (0), Hashim Amla (134) and Philander (0) all falling.
Amla added just 9 runs to his overnight score of 125*.
The biggest casualty from the South African innings was undoubtedly Bavuma, who arrived at the crease under significant pressure following a lean run of form that has now delivered just 21 runs in 5 innings this series.
AB de Villiers could very well make himself available for March's three-Test series in New Zealand, and Bavuma needed to score some runs to distance himself from that conversation.
With JP Duminy's superb 155 on day one, Bavuma now looks to be the likeliest candidate to make way should De Villiers be re-introduced into the Test set-up.
There is, of course, no guarantee of that happening, but with the wicket looking like it will aid the bowlers throughout this Test, Bavuma may not get an opportunity to bat again in the series.