A REMARKABLE batting effort from Test debutant Faf du Plessis enabled South Africa to hold on for a thrilling draw at the Adelaide Oval.
Du Plessis, who won man-of-the-match honours, hit 78 in South Africa's first innings and then notched his maiden Test century yesterday, finishing the day unbeaten on 110 to lead the Proteas to safety in a match they looked like losing before the final day began.
After coming in at 4-45, he went on to face a marathon 376 balls.
He survived three lbw reviews and a crucial dropped catch from keeper Matt Wade, who was standing up to the stumps to Ben Hilfenhaus.
A bowler short thanks to James Pattinson's rib injury, Australia battled manfully with Peter Siddle, who bowled 33 overs, and Nathan Lyon (50) doing the lion's share of the work in pursuit of victory.
Siddle bowled his heart out all day and took two late wickets to give the Australians a glimpse of victory towards the end of a gruelling day.
The Victorian, who was struggling with cramp as the day wore on, captured four wickets in South Africa's second innings, while Lyon toiled hard and picked up three victims of his own.
But in the end it was du Plessis' day as he, too, battled cramp and fatigue to see his side home.
He saw out the first session with AB de Villiers before combining with the injured Jacques Kallis for most of the afternoon before Kallis became a victim for Lyon for 46 crucial runs, caught at short leg by Ed Cowan.
Dale Steyn hung around without troubling the scorers but vitally eked out some much-needed time for the visitors before being caught low at mid-wicket by a diving Rob Quiney off Siddle.
Rory Kleinveldt also backed up du Plessis before Siddle produced one last effort to squeeze a yorker under the big man's bat.
That brought Morne Morkel to the crease under the utmost pressure with just over two overs remaining but the fast bowler held his nerve to take South Africa to an unlikely draw.
The Proteas finished the final day on 8-248 and the series stays all square ahead of the final Test in Perth, starting Friday.