Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla piled on the punishment for England to set up a series-levelling platform on day three of the third Test at Newlands.
Nothing went right for England's hard-working attack as they wilted in the 100 degree-plus heat - and South Africa took advantage in a record second-wicket stand of 230 out of 312 for two at stumps.
Smith's eventual share of the proceeds was an unbeaten 162 from 243 balls, with England toiling under cloudless skies, while Amla (95) struck 10 fours in his first 50 runs.
There was clearly no indication that Stuart Broad's studs - when he stood on the ball to stop a straight-drive before lunch - had any untoward effect on its subsequent behaviour, as England went wicketless for 54 overs.
South Africa's second innings was more notable perhaps for several examples of DRS in action, with mixed results.
Ashwell Prince survived one faulty caught-behind decision off James Anderson, on review, then was rightly dispatched when he queried another - lbw to Graeme Swann.
Smith came through a saga of reviews and non-reviews for lbw against the England off-spinner, as well as a clutch of other scrapes - with short-leg, wicketkeeper and slip always interested in the early stage of his innings as he tried to make sure Swann did not settle.
The South Africa captain gradually ground England into submission, then upped the ante after tea on his way to and beyond three figures for the 19th time as his partnership with Amla beat the previous Test highest for the wicket at this venue.
Smith thought he was gone immediately after his hundred but wicketkeeper Matt Prior quickly made it clear the edge off Graham Onions had not carried.
Instead, Smith ploughed on - taking particular toll on Jonathan Trott's occasional medium-pace, with four fours in one over.
Amla made most of his gains from the pace bowlers - picking up regular boundaries behind square on the off-side, with no third-man in place.
He had lost some momentum, though, by the time Swann finally broke through again via a bat-pad catch.
Even then, no respite ever came for England - whose day was summed up shortly before the close when an outstanding reaction catch by a diving Paul Collingwood at slip was ruled irrelevant as the third umpire concluded Jacques Kallis, on 12, had not made contact with an attempted sweep at Swann in the first place.
By then, the tourists surely knew they must contemplate trying to salvage a draw by batting out the last four sessions at least to somehow keep their noses in front when they arrive in Johannesburg next week.
When Morne Morkel had taken two wickets in two balls in the first over of the day, it seemed certain England - having begun on 241 for seven - would concede an awkward first-innings deficit.
But thanks to Prior (76), who dominated a last-wicket stand of 32 with Onions, they narrowed the margin to only 18 on 273 all out.
Before Prior could receive his first ball, Morkel (five for 75) was on a hat-trick.
The extra bounce available with the second new ball was crucial, and there was little either Swann or Anderson could have done to save themselves when the 6ft 6in tall Morkel landed two brutish deliveries in the perfect spot.
The only difference between the two dismissals was that they came in mirror image - left-hander Anderson following Swann for a first-ball duck, but both edges held by Smith at slip.
Prior responded with some adventurous shots and clever shepherding of the strike.
Onions faced only nine of 31 balls while Prior took his boundary count up to nine until he was last out to Dale Steyn (four for 74), trying to control a shoulder-high pull for a single only to drag the ball down on to his stumps.