Hobart: Mitchell Starc offered Australia a lifeline with an inspired spell after a record low home total against South Africa on an opening day of carnage in the second Test in Hobart on Saturday.
The left-arm pace spearhead put the brakes on the Proteas with three wickets in 10 balls in the third session of play, after the Australians were skittled out for 85 off 32.5 overs.
The tourists reached stumps at 171 for five and a lead of 86. Temba Bavuma was unbeaten on 38 with Quinton de Kock on 28.
Up until Starc's intervention, South Africa had seized control of the first day, with a total of 15 wickets tumbling for a combined 256 runs under cloudy skies.
Vernon Philander powered the Proteas with five for 21, as Australia folded to their lowest total at home against South Africa to revive memories of recent catastrophic batting collapses.
The capitulation revisited the nightmares of their miserable 47 in Cape Town in 2011 and England's demolition for 60 at Trent Bridge last year. Only skipper Steve Smith provided any backbone with his unbeaten knock of 48 as the Australians failed to back up their talk of rebounding from their comprehensive 177-run thrashing by the Proteas in the series opener at Perth.
Just when South Africa looked on their way to emulating the intimidating West Indies teams of the 1980s-1990s with three straight series wins in Australia, Starc struck.
He toe-capped Dean Elgar with a lethal yorker in front of the stumps with his first ball after tea, then removed Stephen Cook with his penultimate delivery of the over. Starc then had Perth centurion JP Duminy snapped up by Smith at second slip, reducing the Proteas to 46 for three. Skipper Faf du Plessis followed LBW to Hazlewood for seven and Hashim Amla was caught behind off the same bowler.
The Hobart rout followed Australia's first innings collapse of 10 for 86 in Perth when they squandered a 158-run opening stand to surrender meekly.
Cricket statisticians went into overdrive as Australia plumbed new lows in Hobart — it was their lowest home total since their 76 against the West Indies in 1984.
David Warner was the barometer of an approaching Australian maelstrom when he recklessly whooshed at a wide ball in Philander's opening over and was caught behind. Things only got worse in Kyle Abbott's following over, when recalled Joe Burns was trapped leg before wicket. Both openers were gone for just two runs, and it was a steady procession from the wicket with only Smith offering any spirited resistance.
The Australians reached lunch at 43 for six after Usman Khawaja edged Philander to Amla at slip for four and Adam Voges was out first ball, caught behind by Quinton de Kock.
Debutant Callum Ferguson fought off a hat-trick with his first ball in Test cricket, but was brilliantly run-out for three by a direct throw by fielding substitute Dane Vilas while going for a second run.
Wicketkeeper Peter Nevill perished after a DRS review of a LBW appeal off Kagiso Rabada.
Philander was forced to leave the field for shoulder treatment after a mid-pitch collision with Smith during an appeal, but returned after lunch. He bowled newcomer Joe Mennie for 10 and Duminy took a screamer in the gully to remove Starc, flinging himself to his right off Abbott.
Josh Hazlewood cracked two fours before he fell to a slips catch by Amla off Abbott. De Kock then took a blinding one-handed catch across the slips cordon to remove Nathan Lyon and end Australia's misery.