Faf du Plessis defied Australia’s attack for the second time this week before running out of batting partners when South Africa was dismissed for 225 late on the first day of the third cricket Test.
Du Plessis finished unbeaten on 78 and guided crucial partnerships of 57 with Robin Peterson (31) and 64 with Vernon Philander (28) to lift South Africa out of serious trouble at 75-6 after winning the toss.
Australia reached 33-2 in the 11 overs before stumps, with David Warner unbeaten on 12 and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon 5 not out.
Ricky Ponting, playing his 168th and last Test match, waited in the pavilion for 22 minutes after Lyon went in at the fall of Watson’s wicket.
The Australian reply started badly when Dale Steyn removed Ed Cowan (0) on the third ball of the innings and Philander picked up his first wicket in the series when he got an lbw decision against Shane Watson (10) on a referral overturning umpire Asad Rauf’s initial not out call as the hosts slumped to 18-2.
A dozen wickets fell in two clusters on a fast, bouncy WACA pitch when conditions were overcast in the morning and evening sessions.
Lyon was the unexpected contributor for Australia, with his off-spin delivering 3-41 for a new-look bowling attack missing all three pacemen who played in the first two drawn tests.
Mitch Starc took two wickets immediately before lunch and left-armer Mitchell Johnson returned 2-54 in his first Test in a year.
The pacemen were on top early and South Africa was in a desperate position after losing five wickets for 14 runs before all-rounder Peterson and then Philander helped du Plessis resurrect the innings.
Philander batted aggressively, hitting a big six off Lyon and two boundaries before he skied the off-spinner to Mike Hussey, who took a well-judged catch at deep mid-on. Steyn (2) chopped a delivery from Johnson onto his stumps to make it 206-9.
Morne Morkel (17) stroked four boundaries off Johnson before he miscued Lyon to John Hastings at mid-on to end the innings.
The South Africans started the Test positively after winning the toss and had only lost skipper Graeme Smith (16) as they progressed to 61-1 before Starc struck twice to make it 63-3 at lunch when he bowled opener Alviro Peterson (30) and Jacques Kallis (2) with swinging deliveries.
Dean Elgar faced 12 balls on debut before attempting to pull a sharply rising ball from Johnson and top-edging down leg side to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, and Lyon ended the seventh-wicket stand when he had Peterson caught behind while attempting a cut shot.