England were still in big trouble in the second Investec Test despite two wickets in successive overs at the end of an otherwise dispiriting third morning at Trent Bridge.
South Africa made remorseless progress almost throughout - and even after Ben Stokes and James Anderson each struck just before lunch, South Africa had an overall lead of 295, on 160 for three following a second-wicket stand of 135 between Dean Elgar (80) and Hashim Amla (61no).
Cloudy skies shed hope on the resumption that the home bowlers could perhaps dent South Africa's hugely advantageous position as the tourists seek to level the four-match series at 1-1.
Nothing went right for England for more than an hour and a half, though.
Stuart Broad would have had Amla caught-behind on 25 if England had gone to DRS, but no one in the ground - the bowler included - seemed remotely convinced of the edge later demonstrated by technology.
Then in Broad's next over, Elgar speared a drive high to Anderson's left at gully - where he did brilliantly to get even fingertips on barely a half-chance.
Not only did Elgar survive on 55 - but as the ball was diverted to Stokes at cover, Amla could have gone had the fielder chosen and hit the target at the non-striker's end as the batsmen dithered and then aborted an attempted single.
Joe Root turned to the spin of Liam Dawson and soon had reasonable cause for regret as Amla followed Elgar to his half-century with a nonchalant six in an over dispatched with alarming ease for 14.
England did have a breakthrough at last, though, when Stokes bounced out Elgar - who got in a terrible tangle and was caught at leg-gully as he tried to bail out of a faulty hook shot.
Stokes produced another brute of a delivery first ball to Quinton de Kock, again round the wicket to the left-hander, this time somehow fended safely but unconvincingly down to fine-leg for a single.
To only his fourth ball, De Kock was sufficiently discomforted to edge the returning Anderson behind - and suddenly, it was South Africa rather than England who needed the lunch break.
Already, however, the ground-record run chase of 284 - achieved by England against New Zealand in 2004 - will have to be broken if the hosts are to pull off a highly-improbable victory.