Skipper Faf du Plessis put his ball tampering controversy behind him to defy Australia's bowlers with a steely century to put South Africa in early control of the day-night third Test in Adelaide.
Du Plessis was booed by the crowd as he walked out to bat, following a ball-tampering incident for which he was found guilty and fined, but cleared to play in the match. But he single-handedly lifted the Proteas before declaring at 259 for nine leaving him unbeaten on 118 after the tourists had been struggling at 95 for four against Steve Smith's revamped team.
The Australians, with David Warner unable to open the innings as he was off the field having treatment and hadn't been back long enough at the time of the declaration, negotiated 12 overs to be 14 without loss at the close of day one.
English-born debutant opener Matt Renshaw played watchfully for eight with Usman Khawaja on three.
It was yet another crucial knock by du Plessis at the Adelaide ground where four years ago his defiant 376-ball unbeaten knock of 110 denied Australia victory to earn the Proteas a backs-to-the-wall draw. Du Plessis scampered through for two off Josh Hazlewood to bring up his sixth Test century off 147 balls prompting a smattering of boos amid the applause of the 32,255 crowd.
It was a tribute to his focus and concentration as du Plessis played a chanceless innings, making it look easy despite the problems experienced by his team-mates.
Hazlewood was the best of the Australian bowlers with four wickets for 68.
Only opener Steve Cook provided any material support to his captain with 40 after profitting from an early reprieve. Dashing wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, who has scores of 84, 64 and 104 in the series, had a failure by comparison, managing just 24 off 33 balls.
Australia are fighting off the threat of their sixth straight Test defeat, after losing 3-0 in Sri Lanka in July and August. They are also on the brink of their first-ever home Test series whitewash.