South Africa remain in pole position at tea on day two of the third Test at the WACA, leading Australia by 86 runs having dismissed the home side for 163 before advancing to 0-24 in their second innings.
Matthew Wade's adventurous innings of 68 and a dogged knock of 32 from John Hastings were the only highlights of a poor first dig from the home side whose top order unravelled in the face of some superb bowling spearheaded by Dale Steyn (4-40) and Vernon Philander (2-55).
From the moment David Warner (13) took a wild swipe at the seventh ball of the day to be caught behind by AB de Villiers off Steyn, Australia found themselves on the back foot, losing four wickets for just 11 runs at one stage as the Proteas took a stranglehold on the contest.
A bumper crowd had arrived early at the WACA to witness Ricky Ponting's penultimate Test innings, but it was over almost before it had begun as the former skipper was trapped in front by Philander having scored just four.
Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (seven) had already become Steyn's third victim of the innings when Ponting's brief appearance came to its inglorious end and even the in-form Michael Clarke failed to stop the rot when he became the sixth wicket to tumble with the score at 45.
The home skipper came to the crease having scored 527 runs in the first two tests of the series, but he could only add another five before nibbling another searing delivery from Steyn straight into the gloves of a gleeful de Villiers.
The Proteas could hardly hide their jubilation at accounting for their nemesis so cheaply and yet as they closed in for the kill, they found themselves frustrated by a 55-run partnership between Michael Hussey and Wade.
Wade spearheaded his side's resistance, opting to try and attack his way out of danger and while riding his luck at times, he also struck a series of thumping boundaries in chalking up the second half-century of his fledgling Test career.
Spinner Robin Peterson was twice sent over the rope and Philander and Morne Morkel were also despatched for several crashing boundaries as the Victorian launched a spirited fightback, bringing the subdued home fans back to their feet in the process.
Hussey was content to play second fiddle to his younger colleague, quietly accumulating 12 runs off 40 balls, but just as the pair appeared set to see out the morning session, Morkel struck to claim his 12th wicket of the series.
Loping in from the Lillee-Marsh end, the rangy paceman tempted the West Australian into an edge which flew to Graeme Smith at first slip and left the hosts reeling at 7- 118 at lunch.
Debutant John Hastings and Wade then took the score along to 140 before Wade's spirited innings came to an end on 68 when he was clean bowled by the patient Peterson after getting his attempted sweep shot all wrong.
Mitchell Johnson was next to step into the firing line and received a rough reception from Morkel who struck him twice on the body in quick succession, but it was Peterson (3-44) who brought the local favourite's brief tenure at the crease to an end when he clean bowled him for seven.
And in the left-armer's next over, Hastings tried to loft him over long-off, but instead Alviro Petersen claimed a marvellous catch in the deep to bring the Australian innings to a close in spectacular style.
Having seen Shane Watson dismiss Graeme Smith in South Africa's first innings, Clarke turned to the newly-fit all-rounder to open the attack alongside Mitchell Starc.
But although the tourists' skipper was the subject of two vocal and prolonged appeals for lbw and caught behind respectively, he survived to reach two not out and, along with Petersen (21 not out), guide his side safely through to tea.