Hardik Pandya stood tall amid ruins with his all-round prowess but hosts South Africa were still very much in command with a current lead of 142 runs against India after an enthralling second day in the first Test in Cape Town, on Saturday.
Pandya played a swashbuckling innings of 93 off 95 balls as India managed a face-saving 209 after being in tatters at 92 for seven at one stage during a typical Test match day where there was an even contest between bat and ball.
Having grabbed a sizeable 77-run first innings lead, the Proteas top-order batted with more purpose as they finished the day at 65 for two but Pandya (2/17 in 4 overs) was again in the thick of things, getting the wickets of openers Aiden Markram (34) and Dean Elgar (25).
At stumps on Day 2, Hashim Amla (four) was in company of nightwatchman Kagiso Rabada (two).
Call it a coincidence, Pandya's all-round show that gave India a toehold came on the 59th birthday of India's greatest ever all-rounder Kapil Dev.
However, with three days of play left and the pitch easing out compared to the first day, India will have an uphill task if they are to chase anything in excess of 275 runs.
That India were not completely out of the match is solely due to Pandya's swift yet brutal counter-attack that provided the visitors with much-needed breathing space.
Pandya justified his inclusion adding an invaluable 99 runs for the eighth wicket with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (25) after India looked down and out after being reduced to a lowly 92 for seven.
Pandya hit 14 boundaries in all and a six off left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj during his entertaining knock.
The Baroda dasher didn't complicate things and more importantly like AB de Villiers decided to take the attack back to the opposition camp without trying to defend doggedly.
He trusted the bounce, got on top of the rising deliveries and played some audacious strokes square of the wicket despite getting two reprieves on 15 (dropped at gully by Dean Elgar) and on 71 (missed stumping by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock) respectively.
Post lunch, Vernon Philander (3/33 in 14.3 overs) struck off the very first ball as Cheteshwar Pujara (26) was caught at second slip.
Two overs later, he had Ravichandran Ashwin (12) caught behind as India were reduced to 81/6. It was Philander's 100th Test wicket at home.
It became 92/7 soon after as Dale Steyn (2-51) trapped Wriddhiman Saha (0) leg before as the batsman didn't offer a stroke to an incoming delivery.
Earlier, Pujara (26) battled hard during the first session only to be dismissed off the first ball in the post lunch session.
Only 48 runs were scored off 25 overs during the first session in which Rohit Sharma (11) was trapped leg before by Kagiso Rabada (3/34) after he did all the hardwork during the first hour.
Starting from their overnight score of 28 for three, Pujara and Rohit were ready to show patience and frustrate the opposition bowlers.
They were content playing out deliveries and preserving wickets rather than scoring runs.
Philander didn't concede single run in his first five overs, keeping a tight leash on Rohit. He beat the batsman on a few occasions but it wasn't enough to induce an edge.
Morkel came on as first change just before the drinks' break and immediately he extracted more bounce from the surface.
The big moment came when Rabada came on to bowl. He looked like taking a wicket from the very start as he troubled Rohit with pace, bounce and movement.
Finally, in the 29th over, he succeeded in doing so, trapping Rohit leg before wicket. The batsman used up a DRS review but the decision stayed in South Africa's favour.
Ashwin and Pujara batted out the remainder of the session. The former looked for scoring opportunities more than his partner and quickly moved into double figures to give some respectability to the Indian total going into the lunch break.