Jonny Bairstow led England's fightback from 54/4 as the third Test remained wonderfully even on an enthralling second day at Lord's.
England close day two 208/5, 101 behind South Africa (309)
Bairstow shared a partnership of 124 with Ian Bell - a record at Lord's for the fifth wicket against South Africa - to keep hopes of squaring the series and retaining the number one Test status alive.
It was a magnificent performance from Bairstow - only playing at Lord's because of the fallout from the Kevin Pietersen saga - who struggled in his introduction to Test cricket earlier this summer. Despite some quality fast bowling from South Africa's stellar attack, he showed a fine Test temperament and quality of shot selection at the highest level.
As expected, South Africa - and the beanpole Morne Morkel in particular - peppered Bairstow early on, but the Yorkshire batsman settled at the crease and enjoying the atmosphere at the Home of Cricket, earning a standing ovation at the close.
Ebb and flow
England had been frustrated by the belligerence of the South Africa tail on the first evening, and they once again found the tourists' bowlers a tough nut to crack on day two.
Vernon Philander continued to play the England quicks well, reaching a first Test half century and going on to match JP Duminy's inning top score of 61 to drag his side past the psychological 300 barrier.
There were runs too from Morkel, who rode his luck early on and made 25 before he became the fourth victim for the somewhat erratic Steven Finn, caught magnificently with one hand by a diving Prior.
Andrew Strauss' appearance with his pads on, 100 Tests since his debut at the same ground, drew generous applause from the crowd, and for a while it seemed as if everything was going to plan for the 35-year-old. But Morkel has been his nemesis often in Test cricket and he dismissed the England skipper for the eighth time with one which snuck between bat and pad on the stroke of Lunch.
England's top order crumbled after the break, in the face of some fine fast bowling. Dale Steyn trapped the out-of-touch Jonathan Trott LBW and Alastair Cook departed shortly afterwards, exposing the inexperienced James Taylor earlier than would have been hoped.
He didn't last long, caught at slip off Morkel, but his fellow 22-year-old Bairstow rose to the challenge.
Unsurprisingly, given his struggles against Kemar Roach earlier this summer, Bairstow was subjected to a barrage of short stuff, but despite looking a touch uncomfortable, he grew steadily in confidence - aided no doubt by the calm experience of Bell at the other end.
As with South Africa, who had also been 54/4, England found conditions much easier once the ball began to soften. The introduction of Imran Tahir saw shots begin to emerge, and Bairstow struck three boundaries in one over from the Pakistan born leg spinner.
Bell was the more cautious of the batsmen, but he played some of the most divine strokes, including a drive on-the-up from Dale Steyn which delighted the crowd. The century partnership was brought up, but just as England fans started to turn their thoughts towards a wicketless final session, Philander produced a fine spell to Bell tying up his scoring before tempting the right-hander into an airy drive; the edge snaffled at gully.