Contrasting half-centuries from Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis saw South Africa to 232-4 at stumps on the first day of the third and deciding Test against India.
Asked to bat in juicy conditions at Newlands, the Proteas' middle-order showed great skill to ensure there was no repeat of the collapses in last week's Durban defeat.
With the ball jagging around for India's seam attack, Amla's aggressive 59 set a defiant tone and Kallis then produced a more measured 81 not out as conditions eased.
Breaks for rain and bad light restricted play to 74 overs but the tourists - for whom Shanthakumaran Sreesanth claimed two wickets - largely failed to make the most of the assistance on offer.
India, who can cement top spot in the International Cricket Council rankings with a maiden Test series triumph on South African soil, made one change - opening batsman Gautam Gambhir replacing Murali Vijay after recovering from a hand injury. South Africa kept faith with the side beaten by 87 runs in Durban.
Zaheer Khan (1-62) accounted for home captain Graeme Smith during the fourth over of his testing new-ball spell - the 11th time he has dismissed the left-hander in 23 international innings.
Smith (6) played well outside the line of a ball that shaped back into him and, after being hit on the back pad, was duly sent on his way lbw.
Alviro Petersen and Amla survived through to the first hold-up; bad light - soon followed by rain - forcing the players from the field with South Africa on 21-1.
The action eventually resumed after an early lunch had been taken but Petersen (21) did not hang around for much longer - a loose drive at a full delivery from Ishant Sharma (1-39) resulting in an edge through to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Amla, however, played in carefree fashion, racing to his 19th Test half-century from 69 balls.
He added 72 with a more subdued Kallis for the third wicket but, after another break for bad light, Sreesanth ended his fun.
The Durban-born right-hander was caught by Cheteshwar Pujara on the midwicket boundary from a top-edged pull, ending his knock of 59 from 80 deliveries, featuring nine fours and a six.
Kallis and AB de Villiers stood firm with a 58-run partnership either side of tea before Sreesanth (2-70) struck again, this time having de Villiers (26) caught behind driving at an outswinger.
The sun came out late in the day and conditions for batting eased considerably, Kallis and Ashwell Prince looking in little difficulty during an unbroken 58-run alliance.
Kallis went to 50 for the 55th time in Tests from 99 balls and by the close had advanced to within 19 runs of a 39th century, while Prince finished unbeaten on 28.