South Africa were eyeing victory after Dale Steyn produced a career-best 7-51 to trigger a dramatic India collapse on the third day of the first Test yesterday.
The right-arm quick polished off the last five India wickets for three runs in 7.4 overs after tea to bundle them out for 233 and help the visitors enforce the follow-on at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium in Nagpur.
Following on, India were tottering at 66-2, trailing South Africa by 259 runs on first innings with eight wickets in hand.
Murali Vijay was batting on 27 with Sachin Tendulkar on 15 when stumps were drawn for the day.
Steyn had struck again in India's second innings, sending back Virender Sehwag for 16 while Morne Morkel pegged back the off-stump of the other opener, Gautam Gambhir (one).
"I tried to hit the right areas with the same intensity," said Steyn. "On some days you can bowl the best of your life and not pick wickets and then you have some days when things just fall into place.
"There was a ball change [around tea time] as the seam had split open and we came back strongly after that."
India's slide began with the dismissal of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (six) in the first over after the tea break.
Subramaniam Badrinath's resistance in his first Test appearance was cut short in the next over when he chipped Steyn straight to short mid-wicket. His 56-run innings came off 139 balls and included seven fours.
The other debutant, Wriddhiman Saha, was out off the first ball he faced from Steyn. Zaheer Khan and Amit Mishra played onto their stumps before Harbhajan Singh was trapped lbw, giving Steyn his 13th five-wicket haul in 37 Tests.
The only positive for India was the 109-run knock by Sehwag, who hit 15 fours and also shared 136 runs for the fourth wicket with Badrinath after India were reeling at 56-3.
But Sehwag was dismissed shortly after reaching his 18th Test century when he sliced a quite wide delivery from paceman Wayne Parnell (1-31) to cover where Jean-Paul Duminy took a well-judged catch.
"We all are very disappointed with our performance," said Sehwag. "We needed some big partnerships. But Steyn used the reverse swing very well. He is a very good bowler but he was simply brilliant today."
Replying to South Africa's first innings 558-6 declared, India were off to a disastrous start, losing their three top-order wickets inside the first hour.
Keep up with the latest business news from the region with the Emirates Business 24|7 daily newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.