Australia have snared the key scalps of Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla to seize complete control of the second Test against South Africa at tea on day four at Adelaide Oval.
The Proteas wobbled to 2-40, still 390 runs shy of conjuring what is looking increasingly like an unlikely victory.
The prospect of salvaging a draw appears equally forlorn with four sessions still to play and South Africa behind the eight-ball virtually from the start after trailing by 162 runs at the end of the first innings.
Captain Michael Clarke declared the home side's second innings closed at 8-267 shortly before tea in the middle session, with James Pattinson (29 not out) and Ben Hilfenhaus (18 not out) sharing in a belligerent unbeaten 47-run ninth-wicket stand, which demoralised the tourists after ageless Mike Hussey (54) top-scored.
South Africa's mood dipped further when, on resumption, captain Smith was sent packing by Hilfenhaus for a second-ball duck in the first over of the innings, a perfect start for the Aussies.
Bowling around the wicket, the Tasmanian angled one away slightly, which the first-innings centurion thick-edged to Ricky Ponting at second slip.
A noted fourth-innings run-scorer and the team's chief top-order barometer, the departure of Smith was a massive blow for South Africa and the Australians knew it.
Alviro Petersen and Amla played with plenty of purpose and intent against seamers Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle, but found the slow bowlers harder to get away.
Spin was introduced in the sixth over when Clarke brought himself on at the Cathedral End for a couple of overs before handing over the spin reins to Nathan Lyon.
The South Australian tweaker rewarded Clarke in his second over when he claimed the key wicket of Amla for 17 - with a bit of help from the skipper.
Lyon deceived the great Amla in flight, tossing one well wide of off stump and drawing the Gabba centurion into a lunging drive.
Amla edged it to Clarke at slip, who had two juggling bites at the cherry before pouching it in one hand.
Petersen (20 not out) and out-of-sorts Jacques Rudolph (two not out) are now charged with the arduous task of salvaging a miracle on a pitch that is increasingly helping the spinners.
Lyon will almost certainly bowl a marathon spell this evening with the undermanned Australian attack down to three specialists with the confirmed long-term loss of Pattinson.
During the session, Australian team management said the young Victorian quick has sustained a left lower rib/side strain injury, which will rule him out of the remaining four Tests this summer - the Perth Test against South Africa and the entire Sri Lankan series later in the season.