England received scant reward for their efforts - and did not help their own cause by dropping a crucial catch - as Hashim Amla tilted the equation against them in the Lord's Test.
Amla was the main stumbling block for the hosts, adding an unbeaten 94 here to the triple century which underpinned South Africa's opening victory at The Oval - an outcome responsible for their 1-0 lead at the start of this third and final Investec Test.
Amla was dropped by Matt Prior on just two on Saturday, and on the fourth morning AB de Villiers escaped on eight when James Anderson put down a straightforward low chance at midwicket off Graeme Swann as the tourists reached 216 for four, a lead of 210, before rain and bad light brought an early lunch.
South Africa's first run of another searingly hot but increasingly cloudy morning was a painful experience for nightwatchman Dale Steyn, hit on the left glove by a bouncer from Steven Finn and needing treatment after scampering the single.
The tailender was also responsible for his team's first boundary, after almost half an hour, when he clipped Anderson off a thick inside edge past midwicket to bring up the 150.
Andrew Strauss then made a double change - and Stuart Broad made short work of Steyn, who succumbed to yet another short ball as he tried to fend off again but offered a simple catch off the shoulder of the bat to short-leg.
De Villiers announced himself with successive boundaries from his first two balls, pulled fine off Broad and then down the wicket to hit Swann over mid-on.
England needed to restrict their chase on Monday to stay in contention, and it looked a hammer blow when Anderson continued his uncharacteristic recent trend of missed catches after Swann had deceived De Villiers in the air.
That impression was underlined as England began to settle into damage limitation before the second new ball, setting no slips to Anderson and apparently pinning all hope on reverse-swing or an improbable South African mistake.