Defending an unsatisfactory total of 261 on a true pitch with a bowling staff diminished by the absence of the injured Carl Hooper, they limited South Africa to 217 for 6 when play was halted, for the second and final time, by murky light.
The second of Walsh's four wickets overtook the watching coach Malcolm Marshall's West Indies Test record of 376 wickets in his 103rd Test and the ageless campaigner kept going for 19.4 overs, oblivious to either the 28-degree heat or the tendinitis in his right knee.
Walsh said: "It's a major personal achievement, particularly after playing with him [Marshall]." He added that he did not know how much longer he would play. "I'm concentrating on making this a good series as it's a landmark tour," he said.
Marshall paid tribute to a man he said was too modest. "I predict he [Walsh] will play at least another 13 Tests and at the end of it he'll be the leading wicket-taker of all time," he said.
The reassuring presence of captain Hansie Cronje, unbeaten on 39, the most proficient lower-order in the contemporary game and foot-weary opposition bowlers is counter- balanced for the home team by the prospect of batting last on a dry pitch on which the cracks are widening by the hour.
Walsh's performance was preceded by an opening half-hour of uncompromising pace and hostility from Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald that quickly took the last three West Indies wickets. Pollock inflicted a resounding blow to the helmet of Nixon McLean before claiming him to a keeper's catch next ball. He similarly accounted for Curtly Ambrose for figures of 5 for 54.
Walsh struck back immediately, in his second over, with as unplayable a ball as he would have ever bowled. Angled in to Adam Bacher, it cut away on pitching to find a probing edge on its way to the keeper.
The West Indies had to wait another 33 overs for Walsh to intervene again with his record-breaking wicket, that of Jacques Kallis, who was snared inches from the grass and to his right by Stuart Williams at second slip after an enterprising 53 and a partnership of 92 with the opener, Gary Kirsten. Walsh added Darryl Cullinan and returned later to snare the dangerous Pollock.
Second day; West Indies won toss
WEST INDIES - First Innings
(Overnight: 249 for 7)
N A M McLean c Boucher b Pollock 28
R N Lewis c Terbrugge b Donald 12
C E L Ambrose c Boucher b Pollock 0
C A Walsh not out 5
Extras (7lb 5nb 2w) 14
Total (97 overs) 261
Fall (cont): 8-255 9-255.
Bowling: Donald 23-4-91-3; Pollock 23-4-54-5; Kallis 15-5-37-1; Terbrugge 16-5-32-1; Cronje 1-0-3-0; Symcox 19-5-37-0.
SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings
G Kirsten b McLean 62
A M Bacher c Jacobs b Walsh 1
J H Kallis c Williams b Walsh 53
D J Cullinan c Jacobs b Walsh 8
*W J Cronje not out 39
J N Rhodes lbw b McLean 17
S M Pollock b Walsh 11
M V Boucher not out 2
Extras (lb5 b1 nb18) 24
Total (for 6, 73.4 overs) 217
Fall: 1-10 2-102 3-111 4-154 5-185 6-209.
To bat: P L Symcox, A A Donald, D J Terbrugge.
Bowling: Ambrose 20-3-45-0; Walsh 20.4-4-48-4; McLean 15-0-60-2; Lewis 19-2-58-0.
Umpires: C Mitchley (SA) and D Shepherd (Eng).
W INDIES TOP SIX
Courtney Walsh 103 379
Malcolm Marshall 81 376
Curtly Ambrose 81 346
Lance Gibbs 79 309
Joel Garner 58 259
Michael Holding 60 249