Ricky Ponting's bold declaration on Tuesday injected drama into the third and final Test in Sydney which seems headed for a nail-biting finish with South Africa needing 314 runs on a tricky fifth day track to complete a rare 3-0 whitewash.
Set a daunting target of 376 runs, South Africa lost makeshift opener Morne Morkel for a second ball duck before reaching 62 for one at stumps on day four.
Acting skipper Neil McKenzie (25) and in-form Hashim Amla (30) were in the middle with South Africa still needing another 314 runs for a memorable win that would also make them the number one Test side in the world.
With just one day left, South Africa may go for the target despite their captain Graeme Smith not being in a position to bat.
On the other hand, Australia will also fancy their chances of picking up the remaining wickets to prevent what could be their first whitewash at home.
Earlier, resuming on 33 for no loss, Australia declared their second essay at 257 for four wickets with Simon Katich (61), Ponting (53), Mike Hussey (45 not out) and Michael Clarke (41) scoring bulk of the runs.
Matthew Hayden, under tremendous pressure to justify his selection in the playing XI, squandered a good start and fell for 39.
Hayden dragged a Morkel delivery onto the stumps to depart after what turned out to be his highest score of the summer.
Next man in Ponting almost had a golden pair against his name but the Australian skipper proved lucky and the first ball he faced, from Morkel, took an inside edge and missed the leg-stump by a whisker. Ponting had fallen to the pacer for a first ball duck in the first innings.
The Australia skipper also survived a leg before appeal before successive fours off Makhaya Ntini eased the pressure and he went almost at run-a-ball rate.
He clipped Paul Harris to long on and ran three to complete his fifty but departed soon, dragging a Morkel delivery onto his stumps.
Katich, at the other end, played his natural patient game and completed his fifty as well without fuss before Dale Steyn trapped him leg before wicket.
Dropped by Jacques Kallis in the slip, Michael Clarke scored at a brisk rate before falling to Paul Harris and Ponting then decided to call unbeaten batsman Hussey back to the pavilion.
Hussey's unbeaten 45 included three hits to the fence apart from a soaring six off Ntini.
With Smith ruled out of action, McKenzie walked out with Morne Morkel to open South Africa's second innings, a ploy probably prompted by the handy 40 Morkel had scored in the first innings batting at number eight.
Opening the innings proved a different ball game altogether and Doug Bollinger claimed his maiden Test wicket when Morkel perished at mid-on with a second ball duck against his name.
Things could have been worse for South Africa but Brad Haddin could not collect an edge offered by Amla, then at five, off Peter Siddle.
Amla and McKenzie, however, didn't flounder anymore, having added 60 runs for the second wicket before the close of play.