Johannesburg – Morne Morkel, in his final match for South Africa, bowled through the pain on Monday as South Africa moved a step closer to winning a Test series against Australia on home soil for the first time since re-admission.
At stumps on day four of the fourth and final Test, Australia were 88/3 - still 524 away - having been set an impossible 612 for victory after South Africa eventually declared on 344/6 at tea.
SCOREBOARD: SA v Australia - 4th Test, Day 4
Having picked up a side strain on Sunday, a heavily-strapped Morkel was in clear physical discomfort from the first ball he bowled on Monday.
But he soldiered on and picked up two key wickets as South Africa closed in on victory.
To make matters worse for the hosts, Kagiso Rabada was battling a lower back strain while Vernon Philander had a groin niggle.
Those injury concerns almost certainly contributed to South African captain Faf du Plessis opting to keep his side out batting for as long as he did.
The skipper couldn’t have known how his seam trio would have responded to bowling long spells and ensuring that the game and series was safe would have been the priority.
The first two sessions had seen the Proteas extend their lead to the point where the stuffing was totally knocked out of what was left of the contest.
The highlight was Du Plessis (120) recording his eighth Test century as he finally contributed to the cause in this series.
Before this innings, Du Plessis had recorded just 55 runs from seven knocks since the first Test at Kingsmead, but he displayed the perfect balance of caution and aggression to bat his side into an unassailable position.
Dean Elgar (81) took forever to get going in the morning session, but he too found some rhythm and was batting at a good pace when he fell to Nathan Lyon.
As news of Rabada’s injury broke, it began to look like South Africa would never declare.
But, at tea, Du Plessis brought the curtain down of the Proteas innings with Temba Bavuma (35*) completing a fine Test match after his 95* in the first innings.
Rabada took the new ball and thought he had a wicket with his first ball when Matt Renshaw was given out caught behind. The Aussie opener reviewed, though, and there was no contact with the bat.
While Rabada seemed relatively untroubled by his injury, Morkel was clearly struggling as he grimaced after ball one.
It didn’t stop him having an impact, though, and the 33-year-old picked up the first Australian wicket when he had Renshaw (5) trapped LBW.
With the seamers wounded, Keshav Maharaj (1/45) was always going to have a major say in the closing stages of this Test.
He had his reward in his fifth over when Usman Khawaja (7) didn’t offer a shot and misjudged the turn – the ball hitting his front pad as the Aussies fell to 34/2.
Joe Burns, meanwhile, was batting nicely.
He got to 42 before he became Morkel’s (2/18) second victim with a full delivery that he tried to work onto the on-side but missed. Burns was wrapped low on the pads for one of the easier LBW decisions you will see.
When the light had faded, Peter Handscomb (23*) and Shaun Marsh (7*) were at the wicket as the Test moved into a fifth day.