Brilliant Temba Bavuma smashes his way into history books
For a few glorious minutes the second Test sprang into fresh life. Could it be that after almost two tortuous days there was yet time for a remarkable twist? Only in Test cricket, ran the gleeful, nay sanctimonious thinking, could this happen.
And then pretty soon it settled down to what had become the norm.
Having lost three wickets in 22 balls including their captain Hashim Amla for a handsome and epic 201 - in the context of this match that constituted a collapse of gargantuan proportions, since before it only nine wickets had fallen in 290 overs - South Africa successfully regrouped.
In the evening Temba Bavuma, who had to tolerate the calumny that he was in the South Africa team only for reasons of the protocol governing quotas, made a charming maiden hundred. It was the first by a black South African in Tests.
Bavuma will be challenged with much tougher conditions and circumstances, probably sometime soon, but this was a properly appointed Test innings that can only be good for his team and his nation.
There was an outpouring in the country last night of elation and relief, the undoubted sense that this was a seminal moment.
England continued to be profligate in the field, a shortcoming they need to address quickly.
Blaming the ball coming out of the crowd, as if they and it were coated in something toxic, will not do.
A total of eight clear-cut chances have been spurned.
With a day to go, it would be folly to write this off as a definite draw after South Africa declared their innings at 627 for 7, two runs behind England. Only in Test cricket and all that.
But that is the way the match is headed and has been heading almost since South Africa began their necessarily cautious reply.
It is possible that they might bowl out England cheaply at Newlands and thrash their way to victory and 1-1 in the series.
Or it may be conceivable that England, who batted for six uneventful overs to finish on 16 for 0, can smash their way into a bigger lead, declare or be dismissed and then take 10 wickets for spit in the final session.
Fairies are said to be living in tiny, ornate palaces on Table Mountain.
Only twice in Tests has a team scored more than 629 and conceded a first-innings lead, in Karachi in 2009 (the penultimate Test in Pakistan) when Sri Lanka made 644 for 7 and in Colombo in 2010 when Sri Lanka, again, made 642 for 6.
So England were at least spared that, though they are now the only country to have been three times involved in a Test in which both sides made 600 plus in their first innings.
For South Africa, Bavuma's contribution was hugely encouraging. He assembled a captivating if not flawless innings which contained drives, pulls, flicks and sprightliness of footwork and wrists. He made 102 not out from 148 balls.
Amla scored his third Test double hundred, one of which he had converted into a treble.
But not this time as Stuart Broad produced a beauty which cut back a touch off the pitch, took the inside edge of Amla's forward push and went on to his leg stump.
It was a magisterial innings by South Africa's captain, spanning 11 hours and 47 minutes - only 83 minutes fewer than his 311 not out at The Oval in 2012.