England 499 for 9 (Pope 135*, Stokes 120, Maharaj 5-180) beat South Africa 209 (de Kock 63, Bess 5-51) and 237 (Maharaj 71, Root 4-87) by an innings and 53 runs

England's cricketers encountered some improbable turbulence in their otherwise serene march to victory at Port Elizabeth, as a record-breaking spell of tonking from South Africa's tenth-wicket pair, Keshav Maharaj and Dane Paterson reduced their margin of victory from overwhelming to merely emphatic - by an innings and 53 runs, to claim a 2-1 series lead with just next week's fourth Test at Johannesburg to come.

Having resumed on a ropey 102 for 6, with their only realistic prospect of salvation coming in the prospect of more bad weather, South Africa seemed resigned to their third-heaviest home defeat since readmission when they shipped three more wickets in the first hour of the morning to slip to 138 for 9.

But then, out of the wreckage, rose an unlikely and entertaining star. Maharaj, with the debutant Paterson providing steadfast support, took it upon himself to climb into the second new ball, smashing 71 from 106 runs all told, including a rip-roaring stand of 99 in 73 balls.

At times, it was like watching Nathan Astle's extraordinary onslaught at Christchurch in 2002, as England discovered too late that the harder the ball, the further it travelled. In all the pair crashed 16 fours and three sixes, with Maharaj claiming a share in an unlikely world record when he scalped 24 of the 28 runs from Joe Root's 29th and emphatically final over, to match the mark established by George Bailey off James Anderson in the 2013-14 Ashes and Brian Lara's effort off Robin Peterson.

Paterson, emboldened by a match situation that gave him licence to swing his levers with no consequences, clouted 39 not out from 40 balls, including three fours in the penultimate over of the contest as Sam Curran was slashed repeatedly through third man. But with the deficit draining away and the lunch looking set to be postponed, a direct hit from Curran at mid-on ended the fun to seal England's first innings victory away from home since the fifth Test at Sydney on Andrew Strauss's triumphant Ashes tour in 2010-11.

The finale aside, this was another impressive performance from a young England team that has turned the series on its head after their heavy defeat at Centurion in the first Test. But the manner of the loss leaves South Africa in a deep state of introspection. Having lost four wickets for one run in 28 deliveries to trigger the follow-on on the fourth morning, their omens were not good when Vernon Philander - the most accomplished of their remaining batsmen - was prised out for his overnight 13 by Stuart Broad's third delivery of the day.

Broad, who had ripped through the tail with three cheap wickets in the first innings, was once again right on the money with a full-length inducker, which Philander could only inside-edge onto his front pad, and away to the leaping Ollie Pope at midwicket, who emulated Ben Stokes' Cape Town achievement in picking off six outfield catches in the match, an England record, and one of only six players in history to score a century in the same game too.

Meanwhile, at the Duckpond End, Root resumed his improbable quest for a first Test five-for - he had bowled 19 overs off the reel for his fourth-day figures of 4 for 31, and so nearly claimed that elusive fifth with his fifth ball of the morning when Kagiso Rabada pressed forward with hard hands outside off, only for Dominic Sibley at second slip to spill a fast but catchable edge.

Emboldened, Rabada unfurled one of the shots of the match to dump Root back over his head for a checked-drive six - a sign of things to come - but Mark Wood, eager for action once again after his brisk return to the Test fold, ended his resistance with his first ball of the morning, a cross-seamer from round the wicket that stood up in the pitch for Broad at mid-on to cling onto a looping prod.

Three overs later, another change brought more instant reward - as Dom Bess returned for another foray, and slid a quicker ball through Anrich Nortje's previously doughty defences. But from 138 for 9, England's tactics came a cropper in the face of South Africa's demob-happy slogging. Initially, Root himself claimed the new ball - partly with his milestone in mind but also with a view to sparing his quick bowlers' energies with the Wanderers Test looming in four days' time.

It was not a riproaring success. Maharaj, with his eye now fully in and a nice hard ball to come off the bat with extra oomph, lashed into his offerings with glee. Three consecutive fours gave way to two massive smacks into the stands at cow corner, and though Root beat Maharaj all ends up outside off with his sixth ball, he also beat his keeper, Jos Buttler for four byes … and a footnote in the record books.

Back came England's quicks, and still the shots kept coming, as England were suckered into banging the ball in too short, and neglecting to target the stumps. Another few overs of such frolics might have been interesting, but South Africa's earlier shortcomings could not be undone in half a session of such royal entertainment. They've got it all to do now if they want to salvage a share of the series next week.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket