South Africa produced a dominant performance with bat and ball as they powered their way into an almost unassailable position on day two of the third Test at the WACA on Saturday.
The Proteas skittled Australia for 163 before reaching 2-230 in their second innings to establish a formidable 292-run lead.
Graeme Smith (84) and Hashim Amla (99 not out) made light work of a lacklustre home attack as they compiled a 206-run second-wicket stand, putting the visitors in a strong position to win and retain their status as the world's No.1 Test side.
Australian wicketkeeper Matthew Wade (68) and debutant John Hastings (32) provided the only meaningful resistance during a woeful batting display from the hosts, whose top order had no answer to the pace and bounce generated by Dale Steyn (4-40), Vernon Philander (2-55) and Morne Morkel (1-19).
Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey contributed only 27 runs between them, while Ricky Ponting fell cheaply for the fourth time this series.
A bumper crowd had arrived early at the WACA to witness Ponting's penultimate Test innings, but it was over almost before it began as the former skipper was trapped in front by Philander having scored just four.
Ponting, though, was the third wicket to go on Saturday morning in Perth after David Warner (13) and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon fell cheaply.
Warner was caught behind off the finest of fine edges from a rejuvenated Steyn, while the South African bowler also dismissed Lyon prior to Ponting's wicket falling.
And although Hussey hung around long enough to put on 55 with the pugnacious Wade, he became Morkel's 12th victim of the series shortly before lunch as Australia ended a catastrophic morning session reeling at 7-118.
Having struck three sixes and seven fours in bringing up his second Test half-century before the interval, Wade found the going far tougher when play resumed.
And although he and Hastings helped move the score along to 140, any hopes the home side may have had of running down the tourists' first-innings total of 225 were effectively snuffed out when the 'keeper got himself into a tangle trying to sweep Robin Peterson (3-44) and was clean bowled.
Mitchell Johnson (seven) and Hastings then eked out a further 23 runs between them before the latter was caught in spectacular style by Alviro Petersen in the deep to ensure the Proteas would take a 62-run lead into their second innings.
Australia desperately needed to make some early inroads into South Africa's top order to stand any chance of forcing their way back into the contest and they managed to do so in the very first over of the final session.
It was Johnson (1-35) who struck the blow, drawing a leading edge from Petersen (23) and launching himself in a full-length forward dive to claim a stunning return catch off his own bowling.
Australia's efforts to build upon that breakthrough, however, ran into a stone wall in the form of Smith and Amla who, aided by some wayward bowling, calmly kept their side in the ascendancy.
Mitchell Starc (1-76) and Hastings (0-47) were singled out for some especially brutal punishment, haemorrhaging a combined total of 70 runs from their first nine overs as the experienced batting duo swiftly took the game well beyond the reach of the hosts.
An increasingly-desperate Clarke brought part-time seamer Hussey into the attack, but his solitary over went for 11 and as the shadows lengthened across the WACA outfield, Smith and Amla continued to make hay as they compiled the third-quickest 150 stand in Test history.
The total had reached 206 and the lead 268, when Smith was finally dislodged just 16 runs shy of his ton, his miscued hook off Starc brilliantly caught at deep square-leg by a diving Lyon.
A hobbling Jacques Kallis was then dropped at point by the same fielder before racing to 17 not out, while Amla was left facing an anxious overnight wait after moving to within one run of his 18th Test century off the final ball of the day.