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South Africa hit back after their opening day punishment by rattling through Australia's last five wickets for 68 runs to dismiss the hosts for 550, before surviving a nervous four overs to be 3-0 at lunch on day two of the second test.
Paceman Morne Morkel starred with three wickets in the morning session to finish with 5-146, claiming the key wicket of Australia captain Michael Clarke for 230.
However, James Pattinson and Nathan Lyon frustrated the tourists with a feisty last-wicket stand of 46 before the former was out for a quick-fire 42, nicking an edge to South Africa captain Graeme Smith to bring the innings to a close.
Alviro Petersen was on three, with fellow opener Smith yet to score.
Clarke and wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Wade resumed today with the score at 482-5, but were soon on the back foot with Morkel steaming in and bowling a fuller length in rising heat at Adelaide Oval.
Clarke struck his 40th boundary but added only six runs to his overnight total before being bowled by Morkel, the Australia captain then leaving the ground to a standing ovation.
Peter Siddle flicked a boundary off his pads to raise Australia's total past 500, but the lanky Morkel had Wade caught behind by AB de Villiers for six with a fuller delivery.
Rory Kleinveldt grabbed his first wicket when he had paceman Siddle nick to Smith in the slips, but had a nervous wait as the decision was referred to a lengthy no-ball review.
Morkel celebrated his fifth wicket when Ben Hilfenhaus attempted a hook that ended with a thick edge to Rory Kleinveldt at deep backward square leg.
South Africa's bowling stocks were decimated on Thursday, with paceman Vernon Philander a late withdrawal with a back injury and all-rounder Jacques Kallis suffering a hamstring strain.
Kallis has been ruled out of bowling for the remainder of the test, but will still bat in a small boost for the tourists.
Legspinner Imran Tahir's struggles continued on Friday, as he finished wicketless for 180.