India flattered to deceive briefly but eventually returned to their old fallibility against quality fast bowlers in tough conditions at Johannesburg's Wanderers Stadium on Wednesday.
On the opening day of the third and last Test, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara hit fifties but a lack of application from the rest of the batsmen undid all their good work and the team succumbed to 187 all out in 76.4 overs, following a collapse that saw them lose their last six wickets for just 43 runs.
South Africa, 2-0 up in the 3-game rubber, returned to bat in the last few overs remaining in the final session and too had their own little share of hurt as Bhuvneshwar Kumar sent back Aiden Markram for just 2.
The Proteas closed out the day at 6/1 with Dean Elgar (4) and nightwatchman Kagiso Rabada (0) holding the fort, now 181 runs behind India's lachrymose total.
After winning the toss and bringing back Ajinkya Rahane and Bhuvneshwar to the starting XI at the expense of Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin, India looked to be in familiar territory when openers KL Rahul and Murali Vijay returned in a jiffy on a pitch full of verdure.
Fans expected things to go downhill from there but Kohli and Pujara forged an 84-run stand to brighten up the Indian camp. Kohli got two reprieves - on 11 and 34 - and made the most of those chances to reach a 15th Test fifty. However, just when the whispers of another century - in view of his excellent conversion rate - made themselves audible he yielded to Lungi Ngidi for 54, to the great delight of his folks who were in attendance.
That was it, the Indian team before long hit their self-destructive mode and from 97/3 went 187 all out in the blink of an eye. Pujara, who had scoffed 54 balls to open his account, tried to hold the innings together but shortly after completing his fifty he fell to seamer Andile Phehlukwayo, who had replaced Keshav Maharaj for this game.
Rahane returned but disappointed with his brief innings of 9. If it wasn't for Bhuvneshwar's dogged 30 towards the end, the situation could have been a lot worse. The fast bowler continued to contribute with the scalp of Markram later.
For the hosts, Kagiso Rabada was a cut about the rest with figures of 3/39. Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Phehlukwayo all took two wickets apiece.
India's record at the Wanderers Stadium is pretty encouraging. They have not tasted any defeat in the four matches (one win and three draws) they have played here. However, for the first time, the players will sleep insecurely as they have almost brought themselves out of contention with this pathetic batting show. Barring a miracle, it's all over bar the shouting.