South Africa is in a strong position at stumps on day one of the second 3 Mobile Test at the MCG after the Proteas put on a late rally in the field to have Australia 8-239 at the close of play.
Having won the toss and elected to bat, the Aussies looked to be cruising at 2-162 at tea, but the Proteas fought back in the final session, taking 6-77 to get themselves right back in the contest.
Andre Nel sparked the comeback with four wickets in the session to finish with figures of 4-58, but it was Shaun Pollock who carried the load for much of the day, bowling well while others around him struggled, to finish with 3-46.
The not out batsman for Australia is Michael Hussey on 23 with either Glenn McGrath or Stuart MacGill to join him after Brett Lee was dismissed off the final ball of the day.
A century to Australian captain Ricky Ponting - his 26th in Test cricket - was the highlight of the day for the home side, with the skipper displaying an awesome array of shots on his way to 117 before falling to Nel.
As good as Ponting looked, he was given a chance when he was on just 17 when Nel grassed what should have been a regulation catch off the bowling of Jacques Kallis.
Test debutant Phil Jaques was the only batsman to fall in the first session with Pollock the successful bowler, snaring the wicket with a nasty rising delivery that forced Jaques to fend the ball in the air to short leg where Jacques Rudolph accepted the chance.
Matthew Hayden then shared a 152-run partnership with his skipper to steer the Australians into a strong position even after his departure for 65 shortly before tea.
Local hero Brad Hodge received a rousing reception from the 71,910-strong crowd, but he was unable to back up his double-ton heroics of a week ago and fell to a fine catch to Graeme Smith off the bowling of Pollock.
The dismissal of Ponting was the catalyst for a middle-order collapse by the Australians with Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne all back in the pavilion at the hands of Nel with just 20 runs added to the total.
Kallis had sent a scare through the South African camp earlier in the day when he went down with a knee injury and limped off the ground late in the first session, but he returned after lunch and appeared to bowl unimpaired.
The start of the day's play was delayed by 30 minutes after umpires Steve Bucknor and Asad Rauf deemed the drop-in pitch too moist and despite Ponting describing the surface as 'tacky', he was satisfied the pitch would dry out as the day progressed.