Johannesburg - Australia’s miserable week looked set to continue on Friday when Aiden Markram and the Proteas dominated most of day one of the fourth and final Test at the Wanderers.
A late fightback from the visitors, though, saw them take four wickets in an hour to even things up somewhat.
At stumps, South Africa were 313/6.
SCORECARD: SA v Australia - 4th Test, Day 1
AB de Villiers was good for his 69 (119b, 7x4, 1x6), but the day belonged to Markram and a classy 152 (216b, 17x4, 186).
The visitors are 2-1 down and in need of a win to avoid becoming the first Australian side to lose a Test series in South Africa since re-admission.
But, with the week Australian cricket has had, just turning up on Friday would have taken effort.
They have lost their captain and both opening batsmen in the backlash of last week’s Newlands ball-tampering saga while their premier strike bowler, Mitchell Starc, was ruled out on Friday morning with a stress fracture.
Debutant Chadd Sayers replaced Starc while Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns and Peter Handscomb came in for the banned trio in the top order.
Australian coach Darren Lehmann, meanwhile, announced on Thursday that he would be resigning from his post at the end of the Johannesburg Test.
With those things considered, it was always going to be a tough ask for the Australians to stand up and be competitive, and it didn’t help that they ran into an in-form Markram.
The 23-year-old was sublime and looked in complete control from start to finish.
Markram notched up his fourth Test century in what seemed to be effortless fashion.
He is looking more and more like the future superstar many have suggested he will be, and he doesn’t seem to have a weak area. Markram’s ability to put away bad balls, once again, stood out and anything slightly overpitched or wide was punished while his defences were rock solid.
While Markram was the hero of the day, South Africa’s top order partnerships made for good reading.
Dean Elgar (19) put on 53 with Markram for the first wicket before he was outdone by Lyon (1/95), while Hashim Amla (27) flirted once again with finding some form as he added 89 for the second wicket with Markram.
It has been a frustrating series for Amla, who has carded scores of 27, 31, 31, 56 and 27 in his last five innings.
The way he got out was disappointing as he flashed at a wide one from Pat Cummins (3/53) only to edge to Handscomb, who took an athletic grab at slip.
South Africa’s other major player with the bat in this series has been De Villiers, and while he was slow to get going, he shared a 105-run partnership with Markram.
Markram survived a review for LBW when he was on 129, with replays showing the ball going over the top of the stumps, and it looked like things just weren’t going Australia’s way.
He went past his previous highest score in Test cricket - 143 against both Bangladesh and Australia - with yet another classy push through the off side.
His cover drive for four to bring up 150 was even better and one of the shots of the day, but he was out just a couple of balls later when he pushed Cummins to Mitch Marsh at gully.
It brought an end to an epic innings, and Markram was furious with himself despite having given his side the edge in the match.
Faf du Plessis was out first ball, leaving a delivery from Cummins that would have cannoned into the stumps had he not padded it away.
It is the latest in a string of failures for the Proteas captain, who has now scored 55 runs in seven innings in the series.
De Villiers, meanwhile, became more fluent the longer he batted. He went to his 46th Test half-century, and fourth of the series to add to his hundred in Port Elizabeth.
Temba Bavuma, also desperate for runs, put on an energetic 50-run stand with De Villiers in just 62 balls as the Australians started to get sloppy in the field.
De Villiers, though, was out when he got the faintest of inside edges off Sayers (2/64) as stand-in skipper Tim Paine took the catch.
Night-watchman Kagiso Rabada came and went for 0 when he hit Sayers to mid-off, and Australia had fought their way back into the Test late in the day.
At stumps, Bavuma (25*) and Quinton de Kock (7*) were at the crease.
REVEALED: What Darren Lehmann said over walkie-talkie