Wales dug out a record victory over South Africa though only time will tell if this is to prove a turning point.
Justin Tipuric sealed their largest margin of victory over the Springboks with a late try after Ken Owens had crossed and Leigh Halfpenny kicked five penalties.
This was only their third success over South Africa in 110 years and will go some way to easing the pressure on their interim head coach Rob Howley.
Three wins from four is their best return from an autumn campaign since 2002 and victory over one of the traditional southern hemisphere powers will boost their world ranking.
But there will be plenty who wonder whether this result merely papers over the cracks following recent performances, particularly against what is now officially the worst Springboks side in history after an eighth defeat in 2016.
Howley brushed off doubts over his future position by insisting he “doesn’t listen” to the critics and praised his players for their improvement.
“We’ve reached our target so I am delighted with the players’ effort and attitude over the past five weeks and it has paid off with a win today,” said Howley.
“We were quite comfortable for the whole 80 minutes. In the last five weeks the players have given everything and they have trained really well, so it’s nice to transfer what we’ve done in training into the game today.
“At 20 points to six we were looking for the next score, but we lacked discipline in that last 20 minutes and gave them field position and opportunities. We conceded that try and that’s disappointing but overall I am really pleased.
“I think there is another level in us and we will have to find that level when we next meet up for the Six Nations if we are to match the likes of England and Ireland.”
Despite their dire displays against Australia and Japan, Wales still began this game as favourites against a Springboks side showing three new caps and arguably in an even worst state of affairs then their hosts.
It is hard to see how their beleaguered coach Allister Coetzee can remain in charge after presiding over such a painful slump, even if the problems in South African rugby run far deeper.
“It is not just one person who has responsibility but if I am held solely responsible then I will walk away. I am man enough to say that,” he said.
“But there are a lot of things that need to change in South African rugby if we are going to go forward. Hopefully this marks the start of those changes because we can’t plaster over the cracks. It goes to the core.”
Wales might have been without skipper Sam Warburton though have the luxury of a more than fitting replacement in Tipuric, who showed his full array of skills in the first half.
Wales led 12-6 at half-time through the boot of Halfpenny though lost Dan Lydiate to a worrying knee injury.
That meant a premature return for Taulupe Faletau, after just one hour of rugby all season, and he was to play a part in both tries.
South Africa lost scrum-half Faf de Klerk to a yellow card when Faletau gathered a lineout to set up a well-worked drive that saw Owens break clear for only his third Test try.
At 20-6, Wales should have kicked on but allowed South Africa to respond through a lineout drive of their own, finished by flanker Uzair Cassiem, on his debut, on 70 minutes.
But any doubts within the Principality Stadium were eased when Tipuric burst onto Faletau’s pass and beyond the covering defence to seal the win.
Wales: L Halfpenny, G North, J Davies, S Williams (J Roberts, 78), Liam Williams (S Davies, 58), D Biggar, G Davies, G Jenkins (capt, N Smith, 66), K Owens (S Baldwin, 59), T Francis (S Lee, 67), L Charteris (C Hill, 78), AW Jones, D Lydiate (T Faletau, 40), J Tipuric, R Moriarty.
Tries: Owens,Tipuric; Conversions: Halfpenny (2); Pens: Halfpenny (5)
South Africa: J Goosen, R Combrinck, F Venter, RJ van Rensburg (L Mapoe, 68), J Ulengo, E Jantjies (P, Lambie 58), F de Klerk (P van Zyl, 64), T Mtawarira (S Kitschoff 58), A Strauss (capt M Marx, 69), L Adriaanse (T Nyakane, 68), P du Toit (F Mostert, 68), L de Jager, N Carr (J du Preez, 78), U Cassiem, W Whiteley.
Try: Cassiem; Conversions: Lambie. Pens: Jantijes.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Attendance: 55,122Reuse content