Durban - Temba Bavuma's resistance ended in the most unfortunate fashion on Wednesday as the Proteas continued their struggles against a game Sri Lanka at Kingsmead.
At tea on day one of the first Test between the sides, South Africa were 181/7 having gone into lunch on 89/4.
Bavuma, who had batted with superb application in trying conditions, had clawed his way to 47 before he was run out after backing up at the non-striker's end.
Quinton de Kock had driven Vishwa Fernando straight down the ground, but the bowler managed to get the slightest of touches with his foot before the ball deflected onto the stumps and replays revealed that Bavuma was short of his ground.
It was a disappointing end to an innings that had promised much, but the Proteas do at least have De Kock (44*) at the wicket as they continue their efforts to post something competitive.
Vernon Philander (4), meanwhile, was did not last long after having been elevated to No 7 in the order.
Where Bavuma was unlucky, Philander was disappointing as he completely miscued a short ball from Kasun Rajitha to knock it back to the bowler for the most comfortable of catches.
Keshav Maharaj (29) put on 47 off 51 with De Kock for the seventh wicket, but when he was out caught behind off Fernando, South Africa were in trouble once moire at 178/7.
Earlier, Bavuma and skipper Faf du Plessis (35) had led the South African recovery with a stand of 72 for the fourth wicket, but Du Plessis falling on the stroke of lunch left the Sri Lankans ahead at that stage.
Winning the toss and bowling first, the Sri Lankan opening pair of Suranga Lakmal (1/18) and Fernando (3/49) combined to reduce the hosts to 17/3 inside the first 8 overs of the Test match.
Under cloudy skies and on a wicket that offered significant assistance to the new-ball seamers, both opening bowlers were impressive as they hit their areas and asked some serious questions.
Dean Elgar (0) was first to go when he feathered a Fernando delivery that had just nipped away slightly through to Niroshan Dickwella behind the stumps.
There was then a moment of controversy when Hashim Amla, 0* at the time, survived a massive shout for LBW off Fernando.
The left-arm seamer seemed convinced as he went up for the appeal only for umpire Aleem Dar to rule 'not out' despite what looked a very good shout to the naked eye.
Dimuth Karunaratne, captaining his country for the first time, then took his time consulting his team-mates before signalling to send the decision upstairs for the review.
Bizarrely, that request was overlooked by Dar before it was ruled that the maximum time of 15 seconds allowed to request a review had passed.
Replays revealed that Amla had, in fact, been trapped plumb LBW but with the review not triggered, he survived.
It didn't make the world of difference.
Amla (3) was out caught in the slips off the bowling of Lakmal without offering a shot as South Africa were reduced to 9/2.
Aiden Markram (11) was next to fall as he became the impressive Fernando's second victim with an absolute cracker of a delivery.
Markram had looked to get forward, but Fernando landed the ball perfectly and moved it back in to the right-hander beat the inside edge and leave the hosts 17/3.
That brought Bavuma and skipper Du Plessis together, and the pair began fighting hard for every run with a series of quick singles scattered in between some resolute defence.
Du Plessis fell in the final over before lunch when he a Sri Lankan review saw him given out for edging a Kasun Rajitha delivery down the leg side.
Kagiso Rabada (1*) will be at the crease with De Kock when the final session of the day gets underway.