India recovered from early blows to reach 88-2 in their first innings at lunch in reply to South Africa's 265 on the second day of the third and final Test here on Saturday.
The hosts were struggling at 35-2 on a difficult track before Venkatsai Laxman (33 not out) and former captain Rahul Dravid (20 not out) steadied the innings with an unfinished 53-run stand for the third wicket.
South Africa lead 1-0 in the series following their victory by an innings and 90 runs in the second Test in Ahmedabad. The opening match ended in a draw in Chennai.
India initially struggled against South Africa's pace on a pitch of variable bounce, losing openers Virender Sehwag (eight) and Wasim Jaffer (15) in the opening 11 overs.
Dale Steyn, the most successful South African fast bowler in the ongoing series, provided the breakthrough in his third over when he trapped hard-hitting Sehwag leg-before.
Jaffer played a couple of attractive shots before falling leg-before in paceman Morne Morkel's opening over.
Laxman counter-attacked to ease the pressure, driving Morkel through the covers, flicking through mid-wicket and then edging between slips for three fours in an over.
Dravid played a supporting role, having hit only three fours in his unbeaten 65-ball knock. Laxman struck five fours off 62 deliveries.
South Africa rarely allowed the Indians to score freely, with captain Graeme Smith using his pacemen in short spells in hot conditions and introducing lone spinner Paul Harris in the second hour.
Left-arm spinner Harris did turn the ball in his opening spell, but too slowly to trouble Laxman and Dravid. He was economical, conceding just nine runs in eight overs.