South Africa 488 and 134 for 3 (Elgar 39*, Du Plessis 34*) lead Australia 221 (Paine 62, Khawaja 53, Cummins 50, Philander 3-30, Rabada 3-53, Maharaj 3-92) by 401 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
If Australia didn't win the third day in Johannesburg, they at least drew it. But just as no man is an island, no day of Test cricket is a result unto itself. For all of the fight shown by Tim Paine and Pat Cummins with the bat, and despite the constant threat of Cummins with the ball, at stumps South Africa remained firmly in control of the match, and almost certain to complete a historic home series win against Australia: their first since 1970.
If there was one caveat to South Africa's dominant position, it was a small one - that retiring fast bowler Morne Morkel suffered a side strain and South Africa might therefore be one bowler short in Australia's chase. Still, South Africa have plenty of breathing space: Australia will probably need the highest successful chase in Test history to get out of this series with a 2-2 scoreline. And for a team that has had not one batsman score a hundred in this series, and not a single century partnership, that is asking for a miracle.
The third day consisted of two distinct parts. In the first, Australia put on 111 runs for the loss of their last four wickets, as Paine and Cummins produced the highest Australian partnership of the campaign. In the second, South Africa lost their first three wickets for 134 runs. But it was the opening two days that set up this Test: South Africa's first innings of 488, Australia's score of 110 for 6 at stumps on day two. That scoreline tells a story whose effects will be felt for the rest of the match.
South Africa went to stumps with Dean Elgar on 39 and Faf du Plessis on 34. Their lead stood at 401, and had grown slowly from the 267-run advantage with which they started the innings. Perhaps South Africa believed that their best chance of victory was not to run away with the match, and instead keep the target vaguely within the realms of Australian ambition. Whatever the case, South Africa's second innings had trickled along at 2.39 an over.
Along the way, Aiden Markram became the second-fastest South African to 1000 Test runs, reaching the mark in his 18th innings, just one slower than Graeme Smith. Markram will also be just the tenth man in Test history to finish his tenth Test with 1000 runs to his name. And in his case, it will be exactly 1000, for right after getting there, he edged Cummins to Peter Handscomb at second slip to be caught for 37.
Hashim Amla fell for 16 to Nathan Lyon, who found significant turn and bounce on the Wanderers pitch, and used that to catch Amla's inside edge onto the thigh pad, the chance lobbing up to be taken at backward square leg by Mitchell Marsh. Cummins claimed his seventh wicket of the match when he too found extra bounce to surprise AB de Villiers, who tried to get out of the way but managed only an edge off the high part of his bat to Paine.
It was yet another fine combination between Paine and Cummins, who earlier in the day had frustrated South Africa with a 99-run seventh-wicket stand that was Australia's best of the series. Cummins earned his maiden Test half-century, but fell for exactly 50 when he missed an attempted sweep off Keshav Maharaj and was adjudged lbw on review. Lyon chipped Kagiso Rabada to mid-off for 8, and debutant Chadd Sayers was caught at backward point for a duck off Maharaj.
Paine was, by this stage, still just short of his fifty, and he reached it in emphatic style by clubbing Maharaj over midwicket for six. Paine's efforts in his first Test captaining Australia were all the more impressive, given that he was batting with a hairline fracture in his thumb after copping a painful blow on the second day of the Test.
He eventually fell for 62 as Australia's innings ended on 221, and it was a spectacular finish as Elgar completed a catch of the highest quality. Paine had lifted Rabada over mid-off, and Elgar sprinted with the flight of the ball, then timed his full-stretch leap to perfection to cling on to the ball, promptly celebrating by running off the ground to pad up for South Africa's second innings. By stumps, he was still there, closing out a hard-fought and fairly even day. But the same could not be said of the Test as a whole.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo @brydoncoverdale