Pacers Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn caused havoc, claiming seven wickets among them, to put South Africa in command against India on a rain-hit opening day of the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Thursday.
At stumps on day one, India were reeling at 136 for nine from 38.1 overs after play was called off early due to bad light.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was batting on 33 from 47 balls (two fours and two sixes), while debutant Jaidev Unadkat was unbeaten on one.
Morkel extracted a lot of bounce while moving the ball around a great deal on a lively pitch, while Steyn was also too hot to handle for the visitors, as they took four for 20 and three for 34 respectively.
Sachin Tendulkar was the only batsman to get a measure of the pitch as he stroked 36 from 34 balls, hitting eight fours, before he was trapped plumb leg before wicket by a quick delivery from Steyn. Harbhajan Singh was the other notable contributor with a quick 27 from 25 balls before he was run out.
Earlier, South Africa captain Graeme Smith won the toss and had no hesitation in electing to field.
India were dealt a huge blow when veteran pacer Zaheer Khan was ruled out because of injury, which meant that young Jaidev Unadkat was handed his Test debut.
The start of the match was delayed by nearly four hours because of a wet outfield caused by heavy rain since Wednesday evening. The delay meant only 58 overs could be bowled during the opening day and floodlights would be used if necessary.
Post-lunch session: (55 runs, 20 overs, 3 wickets)
India were dealt a big blow early on as Virender Sehwag was dismissed for a duck. The right-hander went after a wide delivery from Steyn only to offer a simple catch to Hashim Amla on the thirdman boundary.
It was a well-planned out wicket as South Africa posted a fielder on the thirdman boundary right from the start against Sehwag, who obliged with a reckless shot.
Rahul Dravid got the first boundary of the match courtesy a thick outside edge that flew between slips; a few balls later that same shot got him another four in the over from Steyn.
Gambhir (1) got a lifeline when he was ruled not out despite being caught behind off his gloves as he tried to evade a short delivery from Morkel, in the sixth over.
While Dravid looked solid out in the middle, defending resolutely, Gambhir was all at sea and time and again beaten by the moving ball.
When he scored 11, Dravid overtook former West Indies captain Brain Lara (11,953 runs) as the third highest run-getter in the history of Test cricket.
The South African bowlers tried everything possible and dished out a lot of variations yet India managed to deny them another wicket, thoug not for long.
Gambhir's struggle eventually ended when the left-hander edged an outgoing delivery from Morkel and was caught in the slips after a painful innings of five from 43 balls.
In his next over, Morkel dealt India another big blow when he trapped Dravid leg before wicket for 14 with an incoming delivery to reduce the visitors to 27 for three.
Tendulkar looked determined to adopt a positive approach. He pulled a short delivery from Lonwabo Tsotsobe through the midwicket for his first four and a couple of deliveries later drove one through the covers for another boundary.
The master batsman repeated the dose again on Tsotsobe with another couple of boundaries in his next over. Tendulkar seemed in complete control as he flicked a full delivery from Jacques Kallis through square leg for his fifth boundary.
VVS Laxman got his first boundary, driving Paul Harris through the covers in the final over of the session.
At tea on day 1, India were 55 for three after 20 overs, with Tendulkar on 22 from 19 balls, laced with five fours, and Laxman on six.
Post-tea session: (81 runs, 18.1 overs, 6 wickets)
Tendulkar got lucky after the break when his inside edge off Steyn missed the stumps and went to the fine leg boundary. However, a couple of deliveries later he found the middle of the bat and smashed a full one from Steyn through the covers for a cracking boundary, his seventh of the innings.
It was Steyn who compounded India's woes after tea with the wicket of Laxman. The veteran batsman tried to play across the line on the leg side but missed and lost his middle stump after scoring only seven.
Suresh Raina also perished cheaply as he guided Jacques Kallis straight to the third slip fielder and was dismissed for one.
But the biggest blow for India came when Steyn trapped Tendulkar leg before wicket with a full straight delivery. The right-hander was the only batsman to have found his bearings on the wicket as he stroked 36 from 34 balls, inclusive of eight boundaries, before he was beaten by an express delivery from South Africa's top pacer.
Harbhajan Singh got off the mark in some style, hitting Steyn through the point region for a four. In the next over, he hit a short delivery through the leg side for his second.
Harbhajan, who hit successive centuries in his last two Tests, then drove Kallis down the ground for his third four of the innings. The right-hander then lofted Tsotsobe into the stands over long-on for the first six of the innings, which took India past the 100-run mark.
However, India were guilty of throwing away a wicket as Harbhajan was run out following a lazy effort to get back to the crease. Harbhajan, who made 27 from 25 balls, was slow between the wickets as he went for the second run and an alert Boucher threw the wickets down.
Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth didn't even open their accounts, falling prey to Morkel.
Dhoni looked to take charge as he launched Tsotsobe over long-on for his first six. He repeated the dose again on the left-armer in his next over and pulled him over square leg for another six followed by a boundary through point.
After pleading with the umpires a few times, Dhoni's request was finally granted and play was called off with the lights fading.
At stumps on day one, India finished on a paltry 136 for nine in 38.1 overs, having lost six wickets in the post-tea session.
Dhoni was unbeaten on 33 from 47 balls (two fours and two sixes), while debutant Unadkat was unbeaten on one.
India will hope for more rain in the coming days to save them after a poor showing with the bat on the opening day, while South Africa will look to continue their domination on day two.