Ricky Ponting's 29th Test century has provided the main foundation for Australia to battle to 5-228 against South Africa on a tough opening day of the second Test at Kingsmead in Durban.
Ponting (103) and Damien Martyn (57) shared a patient third-wicket partnership of 101 in 41 overs after Matthew Hayden (0) fell to only the eighth ball of the day and Justin Langer (35) went in the 39th over.
Hayden edged a drive off Makhaya Ntini to AB de Villiers at third slip and fellow left-hander Langer gave a low catch to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher off a Jacques Kallis delivery that was angled across him.
Australia's position deteriorated nearing stumps when Ponting lifted a drive off left-arm spinner Nicky Boje straight to Herschelle Gibbs at short extra cover and Martyn left three overs later, caught by Kallis at second slip off Ntini - the second delivery with the second new ball, which was taken at 4-218 after 82 overs.
Ntini struck again in his next over when nightwatchman Brett Lee (0) fended outside off stump and umpire Steve Bucknor upheld the South Africans' half-hearted appeal for a catch to Boucher - Australia losing 3-21 in five overs.
Two balls after Lee's dismissal, Andrew Symonds, on two, was struck on the grid of his helmet by a short, lifting ball which followed him as he swayed back - and play was delayed briefly while Symonds received treatment for a bloodied nose.
Mike Hussey (10 no) and Symonds (4 no) were still together when bad light stopped play after 88 overs.
In hot, humid conditions, batting was not easy on a pitch that looked well grassed, but played slowly and was somewhat two-paced, with several balls keeping lower than expected and some rearing awkwardly.
Australia was 1-74 off 28 overs at lunch and 2-138 off 56 overs at tea.
Ponting, who won the toss, was dropped on the leg-side by a diving Boucher off Ntini when only five, and he edged Andre Nel between first slip Graeme Smith and second slip Kallis when 36.
But the Australian captain fought on defiantly, raising his half-century (six fours) off 103 balls and his century (10 fours) off 224 balls before departing the next ball.
Ponting's 29th hundred in 102 Tests, including his sixth in 14 against South Africa, enabled him to draw level with Don Bradman (52 Tests) in fifth position on the all-time list of Test century-makers, behind Sachin Tendulkar (35 in 132 Tests), Sunil Gavaskar (34 in 125), Steve Waugh (32 in 168) and Brian Lara (31 in 123).
Martyn gave Ponting solid support, reaching his 23rd Test half-century (nine fours) off 130 balls before leaving four balls later.