Dale Steyn claimed four wickets to put South Africa in control against India before bad light stopped play, on a rain-hit opening day of the second Test at Kingsmead in Durban, on Sunday.
At stumps on day one, India were struggling at 183 for six in 56 overs with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on 20 and Harbhajan Singh on 15.
Steyn made most of bowling on a grassy, moist wicket by taking four for 36 in 14 overs, while left-arm pacer Lonwabo Tsotsobe claimed two for 40 in 11 overs.
Once again India's batsmen failed to get to grips with a pitch offering a bit of assistance to the pacers.
VVS Laxman was the top scorer with a brisk 38, while Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid were caught behind after scoring 25 each.
Earlier, South Africa captain Graeme Smith had no hesitation in electing to bowl on winning the toss after a rain delay lasting nearly an hour.
India made three changes to their team, which was crushed in the first Test at Centurion. Zaheer Khan came in to boost the bowling attack in place of youngster Jaidev Unadkat, while Cheteshwar Pujara replaced the out-of-form Suresh Raina.
Gautam Gambhir, who hit a half-century in the previous match, was ruled out because of an injury and his place in the team was taken by Murali Vijay.
Hosts South Africa, who lead the three-match series 1-0 following their crushing victory in Centurion by an innings and 25 runs, opted to play with the same side.
The start of the match was delayed by an hour because of a wet outfield caused by rain. The match was supposed to begin at 1330 IST but the damp patches in the outfield and the pitch caused by rain early on Sunday morning meant that the start of play had to be postponed.
Morning session: (74 runs, 19 overs, 2 wickets)
Dale Steyn was on target right from the start as he struck Virender Sehwag on the gloves with a quick delivery off the very first ball of the match.
The pitch was offering a great deal of help for both Steyn and Morne Morkel as the Indian batsmen played quite tentatively, looking just for survival.
While Sehwag was looking to leave a lot of deliveries, he was quick to pounce on anything full. Sehwag got the first boundary of the match when he drove a full delivery from Morkel down the ground, in the fourth over. In the same over, he lofted a wide delivery over the covers for yet another four.
Murali Vijay (3) got a reprieve when his edge off Steyn was dropped by Paul Harris at first slip, who failed to get down in time.
Sehwag then hit left-armer Lonwabo Tsotsobe for two boundaries in his opening over to race to 22. The right-hander got lucky when his uppish drive off the pacer in his next over just managed to evade a diving Morkel at mid-on.
But the good work from the Indian openers was undone by Steyn, who took a wicket each in successive overs.
Steyn got the big wicket of Sehwag, who was caught at second slip for 25, as he tried to play through the off-side but was beaten by the movement.
Having got that wicket, Smith persisted with his premier for another over and it worked.
Vijay got lucky yet again as his edge off Steyn flew past a diving AB de Villiers at third slip for a boundary. However, the fast bowler had his man for 19 off the very next delivery, this time the edge going straight to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.
Morkel came back for a new spell but went for two boundaries in his first over. Dravid drove him down the ground for his first four, while a couple of deliveries later Tendulkar cut him over point for another four.
Tendulkar repeated the shot in Morkel's next over but this time he got it over the slips for yet another four. But he was lucky to survive off the next delivery as he tried to pull a short delivery but the top edge flew over the wicketkeeper for a boundary.
He also survived a close shout for leg before wicket off the final delivery of the session.
At lunch India were 74 for two in 19 overs with Dravid on 14 (21 balls) and Tendulkar on 13 (19) balls after a rain-hit first session.
Steyn was at his lethal best as he took two for 19 in eight overs, but the rest of the bowlers failed to find the right length on a wicket offering a lot of assistance to the seamers.
Post lunch session: (94 runs, 34 overs, 4 wickets)
India got the plot wrong after the lunch break as wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals. The Indian batsmen showed a great deal of patience but were guilty of throwing their wickets away with some ordinary shots.
Dravid got the proceedings started after the break in some style when he hit the first ball for a four, hitting a full delivery from Tsotsobe past mid-off.
However, it was Tsotsobe, who doubled India's misery by claiming the wicket of Tendulkar. The veteran batsman went after a wide outswinging delivery only to edge it to the second slip fielder after scoring 13.
VVS Laxman seemed in good touch. He showed his class by pull a short ball from Tsotsobe through midwicket for a four followed by another four through point in that same over.
He nearly gave his wicket away when he attempted another pull shot off Morkel but the top edge just about managed to fall safely at square leg.
But Laxman maintained a positive approach and even went after Steyn. He drove the fast bowler down the ground for a four and then hit a thumping pull shot for a six to take India past the 100-run mark, in the 31st over.
India reached 111 for three in 33 overs before South Africa introduced spin in the form of Paul Harris.
But it was Steyn, who once again made the difference with another couple of wickets. Dravid was beaten all ends up by a perfect outswining delivery that he could only edge it behind to wicketkeeper Boucher to be dismissed for a patient 25 from 68 balls.
Soon after Laxman also perished for 38 from 73 balls when he pulled a short delivery from Steyn but Tsotsobe came up with a sharp reflex catch at midwicket, stretching full length to his right to pouch it.
Steyn registered wonderful figures of four for 36 in 14 overs to leave India reeling at 130 for five in 41 overs.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni also looked to adopt a positive approach as he cut a short delivery from Morkel over the slips for his first four.
Cheteshwar Pujara was nervous at the start of his innings and had a few close calls at short leg off Harris. He went after Morkel in the 47th over, getting a top edge off an attempted pull shot but the next ball he guided over the slips for back to back boundaries.
But the youngster was guilty of throwing his wicket away. He looked to pull a short delivery from Tsotsobe but got only a top edge which was taken by Boucher behind the wickets after scoring 19 from 45 balls.
At tea, India were struggling at 168 for six in 53 overs, with Dhoni on 18 from 27 balls and Harbhajan Singh on two.
Steyn claimed four for 36 in 14 overs in a hostile spell of fast bowling, but Tsotsobe was gifted two easy wickets as India once again crumbled on a day one pitch to lose the initiative.