Mike Hussey scored a watchful half-century to push Australia's lead to a daunting 388 runs at lunch on the fourth day and leave South Africa needing to defy history to secure an unlikely victory in the second test in Adelaide.
The highest successful fourth innings run-chase at Adelaide Oval was 315 by the hosts in 1902 against England. Hussey and Michael Clarke, who combined for a demoralising 272-partnership in the first innings, frustrated the tourists again as they added another 62 runs to the overnight total of 111-5.
Backing up two consecutive test double-centuries, Clarke's spectacular run of form was ended on 38 by Dale Steyn, who trapped the Australian captain in front to break the sixth wicket partnership at 70 runs.
Hussey, with two consecutive centuries in his previous innings, was out for 54, caught at short-midwicket by Steyn off the bowling of paceman Morne Morkel. Wicketkeeper batsman Matt Wade was on 13 at lunch, with injured fast bowler James Pattinson yet to score.
South Africa had raised the possibility an unlikely victory at the close of day three, after tearing through Australia's batsmen with five wickets after tea, but needed quick wickets in the morning to maintain their faint hopes.
Clarke and Hussey gave them few opportunities, however, with South Africa's pace trio of Steyn, Rory Kleinveldt and Morkel asking few questions on a hot day at Adelaide Oval. After Clarke's dismissal, confirmed on video review after the Australian captain referred it, Kleinveldt had a big appeal for lbw on Wade turned down.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith referred the decision, more out of desperation than logic, but the video review projected the ball flying well over the stumps. Hussey, in white-hot form after centuries in his previous two innings, blasted a cut-shot to the fence off Kleinveldt to raise his half-century, but was out soon after, skying a simple catch to Steyn just before lunch.