Cape Town, Jan 6: England opener Dom Sibley scored an unbeaten first Test century as England set South Africa the target of 438 on day four in Cape Town, a task the hosts quickly set about.
The standout performer of the second Test, Sibley finished on 133 from 311 balls as England declared on 391-8 in the second innings, giving their bowlers a day and a half to get the Proteas out.
But early progress was slow with the ball and, led by debutant Pieter Malan (63 not out), South Africa reached stumps still very much in the match on 126-2.
Ben Stokes had accelerated the tourists' innings with an explosive 72 off 47 in a partnership of 92 with Sibley, arriving at the beginning of the day with England already 264 runs in front.
Stokes' highest Test score came at Newlands in 2016, and he appeared in the mood for more of the same on Monday, quickly plundering boundaries as Sibley held his ground at the opposite end.
The star all-rounder mustered seven fours and three sixes in all as he raced past fifty before Sibley finally reached his patient 269-ball century with a sweep through backward square to the fence.
Stokes looked destined to join his team-mate on three figures in double-quick time, but he could not beat Rassie van der Dussen at long-on, caught off Keshav Maharaj's bowling.
Ollie Pope (3) quickly departed, and Jos Buttler joined Sibley and made 23 off 18. Sam Curran added 13, before England declared with Stuart Broad in the middle.
But South Africa started off fairly comfortably in reply, openers Malan and Dean Elgar only belatedly put under a little pressure in a Joe Denly spell shortly before tea.
Denly (1-26) returned following the interval and tempted a thin edge from Elgar (34) for a much-needed breakthrough the batsman unsuccessfully reviewed.
England soon grew frustrated again, though, as Malan paired with Zubayr Hamza (18) and brought up his first Test fifty, and James Anderson was sent in for a last tilt at the resolute pair.
That change did the trick, Hamza edging Anderson (1-18) behind in the second of the veteran's consecutive maiden overs, leaving the tourists eight wickets short of a series-levelling victory.